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“We’re rolling with the punches”: UW Marching Band reacts to Big Ten decision

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UW Marching Band

MADISON (WKOW) -- Up until the minute they heard the Big Ten decided to not allow marching bands to perform at football games this fall, members of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band were preparing to potentially spend Saturdays at Camp Randall.

"Earlier this week, we thought we might be getting ready for football, so we were trying to wrap our heads around that," Corey Pompey, UW's Director of Athletic Bands, said Friday.

When the news came down, drum major Josh Richlen said his first reaction was disappointment.

"There are a lot of good memories from being in Camp Randall, so it's just really unfortunate to not be able to do that this year," he said.

Despite his disappointment, Richlen said he knows the Big Ten made the decision in order to keep people safe. That's a view Pompey shares.

"This is not business as usual, but the priority is everybody's safety," Pompey said.

Even without gamedays at Camp Randall to prepare for, the band is still practicing.

"No, we are not performing at football games right now, but that doesn't mean we don't continue," Pompey said. "We can keep going, and we will find ways to get the music out there."

The band has taken a number of precautions in order to practice safely during the pandemic.

Instead of the whole band, which has more than 300 members, practicing for multiple hours four days per week, rehearsals are now capped at 25.

"It's 25 people and it's a field that's 100 yards wide, so we feel like we're able to do it safely," Pompey said.

The musicians also wear masks at all times.

Sophomore trombone player Ballard Huey said they wear one mask with a slit in it to play, and they wear a second mask over the first when they're not playing.

"It definitely causes some logistical challenges, but if it's what it takes to be able to come out here and do it safely, then that's what we'll do," Huey said.

For right now, Pompey says he's not sure when the band will perform next, but he says he's looking at ways of performing virtually.

For assistant drum major Laura Dunnum, not having a senior season is an odd thought, but she says thinking about the future of the band keeps her motivated.

"Helping the band be successful right now is going to pay off when experiences eventually return to normal, whether it's next season or the next season," she said.

Richlen said although he might not march on Camp Randall's field again as a student, he's already looking forward to his first game back at the stadium.

"When I'll be sitting in the regular stands watching the band, I think it will be super fulfilling knowing we led the band through a tough time and they're still out there performing like we know and love," he said.

Huey and Pompey said they're preparing for that first post-pandemic performance, too.

"There will be a day that we can do band again, and when that comes, we'll be here with 110 percent energy," Huey said.

Pompey said if UW switches back to virtual learning, the band is prepared to go virtual, too. He said that form of instruction focuses a lot on individual members submitting videos of themselves playing their instrument or practicing marching technique.

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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