2020 Wildcat Band poster

The Wildcat Club announced this week that Richardson ISD won’t be selling season tickets for football games due to the pandemic, but Lake Highlands High students aren’t letting COVID-19 steal their joy. The LHHS marching band will perform at games to 50%-of-capacity crowds, and the drumline will play their signature cadences to charge up the team and enliven spectators.

In-person summer band camp was called off due to COVID restrictions, so band directors led practices over video conference. The drumline released a video, viewable below, as a teaser of good things to come.

“We haven’t played together in an ensemble setting since early-March,” said Percussion Director Andrew Smit. “I know they are itching to make some music together, and this seemed like an easy – and safe – way to scratch that itch a bit.”

“Teaching virtually definitely has its challenges,” continued Smit, “and so does learning virtually. For the most part, though, it’s been a lot smoother and successful than I imagined. The band staff and many other Fine Arts groups have been utilizing Google Classroom for a few years now. So that helped us transition to online quickly when at-home learning began in March. Also, we are incredibly fortunate to work and learn in a district like RISD that invested in technology a few years ago allowing students to all have some sort of school-provided device like iPads or Chromebooks.”

The kids have demonstrated admirable flexibility under challenging circumstances.

“Band is such a group activity that it is hard to be isolated and practice on my own,” shared Drew Harris, who is percussion co-captain with Christina Lopez this year. “It is fun to get together over Zoom to make music together, though.”

“Zoom has a delay and is not ideal to making music together,” agreed Ryan Roan, a senior who plans to study architecture at Texas A&M next year. “I miss making music together and playing together. It’s much easier to master something as a team in person. I am a social person and like to learn and practice in groups. COVID-19 has helped me to practice by myself. When there isn’t a choice, it forces me to practice solo.”

“The hardest thing about COVID-19 has been not getting to do the things I was looking forward to as a section leader, such as taking my section out to lunch during band camp,” said Clara Smith, a senior hoping to study computer engineering at M.I.T. next fall. She had a simple message for band parents and other drumline fans, “We can’t wait to play for you again.”

Each of the students said they’d made the most of the situation and even learned a few things while isolating at home.

“I have always played the marimba in our front ensemble,” said Harris. “This year we are not having a front ensemble, so all of us are playing drums in the battery. I have been able to really improve my drumming skills, and it has been fun to do something different. I have also had more time to work on my college applications.”

“I’ve learned that even if I have three months to read my summer reading books, I will still put them off until a week before school starts,” joked Smith. “On the plus side, not having to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day for band rehearsal is nice.”

Smit said he learned a great deal about his students.

“If there is one thing I can say about the band students at Lake Highlands, it’s that they are resilient. They’ve been tackling these challenges very maturely, and I’m positive we’ll come out the other side stronger because of it. The few days of virtual band camp showed tons of excitement from students. I think they are just as eager to get some sense of normalcy as any of the adults. I’m extremely proud of how they’ve been dealing with these unique challenges.”