Concern over COVID-19 outbreak prompts cancellation of band, color guard events

Pre-UIL band performance at the MAC tonight and color guard area championships this Saturday the first Mac events scrapped due to coronavirus-related fears

The+color+guard+scored+71.790+to+earn+seventh+place+in+the+Scholastic+Regional+A+division+of+the+Texas+Color+Guard+Circuit+competition+held+this+weekend+at+Cedar+Ridge+High+School+in+Round+Rock.+Mac+color+guard+members+expressed+regret+tonight+that+they+would+not+get+the+chance+to+place+higher+at+this+weekend%27s+now+cancelled+area+championships.++Photo+by+Elizabeth+Alford.

Elizabeth Alford

The color guard scored 71.790 to earn seventh place in the Scholastic Regional A division of the Texas Color Guard Circuit competition held this weekend at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock. Mac color guard members expressed regret tonight that they would not get the chance to place higher at this weekend's now cancelled area championships. Photo by Elizabeth Alford.

Madelynn Niles, staff reporter

Within the past three days, the recent whirlwind of cautions, community impacts and cancellations regarding the recent COVID-19 pandemic have gone from a topic of conversations in classrooms to national news headlines and the closure of events AISD students have been preparing for all semester. Tuesday: The suspension of district-sponsored domestic travel to states with community-wide virus outbreaks. Yesterday: An international ban of travel into the U.S. by most European countries issued by President Trump. And now, the cancellation of both the McCallum Pre-UIL band concert planned for this evening and color guard area competition scheduled for this weekend — the first official elimination of events with participating Mac students acted upon in AISD — today. 

As new information is released each day, McCallum students have been presented with different procedures and announcements throughout the past week; wiping down desks in classrooms before use in some classes, being reminded and encouraged to thoroughly wash your hands and discovering the elimination of anticipated school events, amongst these, show some of the ways in which the school and district are adapting to this pandemic, and with these recent announcements by the Mac band directors and the Texas Color Guard Circuit Executive Board, some members of the groups are expressing feelings of both shock and disappointment.

 

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“Honestly, it just didn’t feel real,” junior color guard member Abigail Jones stated. “We’ve gone to at least the end of March every other year I’ve been here, and it’s shocking to think that we won’t have any more performances of our show…  I wasn’t prepared for it to end so early.”

Jones’ fellow member, sophomore Natalie Nagy, felt similarly, even expressing this sudden end to their season as “heartbreaking.” When describing her initial reaction, Nagy stated that “it [felt] like all of our hard work was for nothing,” and that she felt distraught about missing her last opportunity to perform with the seniors on the team. “The final competition is a huge event for all of us because it is one of the last chances for us to make memories with [the seniors] before they graduate, but now we don’t get to have that.” 

The final competition is a huge event for all of us because it is one of the last chances for us to make memories with [the seniors] before they graduate, but now we don’t get to have that.”

— sophomore color guard member Natalie Nagy

Nagy and Jones both expressed confusion as to the decisions being made, as well. “I think that going to that competition presents the same level of possible exposure to the virus as going to school does,” Nagy stated. “So if they feel cancelling an event like that is necessary, why isn’t school being cancelled as well?” 

The members also recognized, however, that the cancellation was due to a concern for their health and well-being, with senior guard member Leah Beck expressing gratitude for “the TCGC taking the precautions needed to keep the color guard community safe.”

“It is with heavy heart that we announce that the remaining events scheduled for 2020 season have been canceled, effective today,” the guardboard communicated in a social media post to its members. “We know this is disappointing to our members, performers, spectators and fans. We know that with the current situation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and the school district closures and government recommendations changing hourly, it is the right thing to do for our community.”

Similarly, the band directors decided to forego tonight’s pre-UIL concert because of fears regarding the outbreak. The directors made the decision to cancel in part because it would be in line with UT’s Butler School of Music cancelling all of its concerts through the end of the semester and also to keep consistent with the decision of the Texas Color Guard Circuit to forego the rest of its competitive season

“We are cancelling our pre-UIL concert tonight to be on the safe side of things regarding the coronavirus,” stated an email sent to band members from the band directors Nelson, Travis, Ehlers and Rudy.

Although it makes me very upset to miss out on performing through the arts I love, I do think it was the best decision… the health of myself and others continues to become more and more at risk each day.”

— sophomore band member Tristan Wicall

The email also urged band members to “stay safe and wash your hands.”

While the band directors made the decision on their own, the decision also fell in line coincidentally with a new AISD policy banning large gatherings that was announced this evening in an email to district staff, students and community members.

The email reads, “In an effort to implement social distancing when possible and support sanitary practices in our buildings, please note the following are canceled through April 3: large gatherings (ie student assemblies), field trips, field days, spring break camps, outside rentals of our buildings.”

Some band members, too, have mixed feelings about this announcement of cancellation. Sophomore member Tristan Wicall stated that this news felt “very disappointing” to him. 

“When you look forward to something for an extended amount of time only to hear it’s not going to happen hours before it’s supposed to, it really brings you down,” he said. “Although it makes me very upset to miss out on performing through the arts I love, I do think it was the best decision… the health of myself and others continues to become more and more at risk each day.”

Senior band member Mercedes Gonzales feels similarly. “I think it was probably the safest option,” she stated. “And I really don’t think that many people were going to go anyway… we ran our program this morning, so I think we’re in good shape.” 

There have been no further announcements regarding the status of the band’s UIL competition, scheduled for later this month. 

In its email to staff, students and community members, AISD superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz said that “UIL events will be considered on a case-by-case basis.” He encouraged students and parents to visit the UIL website for the latest information about UIL events.

The site currently reports that the UIL state basketball tournament is suspended and that the UIL CX state debate tournament and UIL state robotics first tech challenge are postponed indefinitely.

Cruz also said in the email that the district has no plans to cancel classes on any of its campuses at the present time.

After that statement was issued Thursday evening, news broke on several media outlets early Friday morning that the first two known cases of COVD-19 had reached Atlanta. Soon after, the school system reversed it policy and canceled classes on all of its campus, including McCallum, for Friday.

Madelynn Niles
BEADS AND BANDS: Sophomore Cora Green focuses in on a warm up moments before her performance as a part of the McCallum Symphonic Band — one of the four groups showcased on Jan. 25 at the program’s annual fundraising show, Mardi Grazie. Photo by Madelynn Niles.