The Razorback Marching Band has undertaken several COVID-19-related changes and increased safety measures this year, resulting in an unprecedented, bittersweet final season for its senior members.
It is a season like no other for senior members of the Razorback Marching Band. Along with their final season comes an adjusted approach to practices and games to keep band members safe during the pandemic.
Nathan Barker, a senior clarinet player, is soaking up his last few months playing for the band that he has been a part of since his freshman year. Barker is excited to still be able to play with his bandmates and got the chance to perform at the first game of the season, he said.
“This is my last year doing it and I’ve already had so many great experiences and memories, and while, yes, it looks different, I’m still with the people I love to make music with,” Barker said.
Another senior, Chrissy Matlock, said she was excited to make the most of the season by trying to make a positive impact on the incoming freshman's first band experience by spending as much time with them as possible.
“It was harder to get to know the freshmen and I was really upset for the beginning of it,” Matlock said. “I cried a few times because it is so entirely different and it felt like that spirit and energy wasn’t entirely there.”
The band’s performances are restricted to home games, with half of the members allowed to play at one time. There are roughly 350 people in the band during a normal year, so there are about 175 musicians each in the Red Band and White Bands. Each band is split in half with a specific amount of instruments for each band.
The White Band performed during the Arkansas vs. Georgia football game on Sept. 26. The Red Band will play at the next home game, alternating with the White Band for the rest of the season.
Rachel Hawk, a junior trombone player, said it is difficult for the band to perform as well as in previous years because of its number of members being cut in half.
“It’s just an adjustment,” Hawk said. “We’re all going to go out and give the best possible sound that we can to compensate for the lack of people we have.”
During practices and games, band members make sure to socially distance and wear masks while playing the best they can under the given circumstances. As one of the largest student groups on campus, band members take the safety precautions seriously to prevent anyone from getting sick, Hawk said.
“It obviously isn’t the same and that’s a little sad,” Barker said. “But at least we get to march and the institution is doing everything in their power to make sure we are as safe as possible, which is all you can really ask for.”
Hawk said he is confident the RMB’s musicians will continue to perform to the best of their abilities, despite the new precautions.
The Red Band will perform at the next Razorback Football home game Oct. 17 against the Ole Miss Rebels.