Summer Rehearsal and Band Camp report
Oldham County High School Band
Brad Rogers
 
I never dreamed I’d be obtaining PPE, hand sanitizing equipment, improvised instrument bell
covers, enforcing health checks, or creating socially distanced rehearsal environments both
inside and outside; these were not topics covered in any of the music school training, my
graduate work, or part of any experiences I’ve had over the last 40+ years in education. But,
I’m certainly doing them now!
 
I must express my appreciation to all at the board level of OCS, our building leadership,
health department officials and my band directing colleagues at SOHS and NOHS for working
through a viable plan to enable bands to have some semblance of a collaborative learning
experience through our summer rehearsal schedule and band camp weeks.
 
While those rehearsals and our camps at the three high schools varied in their scope, all were
very valuable for students as they began the long road to recovering what was lost in the last
ten weeks of the 2019-2020 school year.
 
Some academic disciplines might fare better than others when forced to an NTI or virtual
model, although there is no equal substitute for the classroom environment and in-person
instruction. Performance ensemble-based arts classes like band and choir simply can’t
replicate what they do in daily rehearsals and live performance on a Chromebook or a
smartphone. It is the collaborative nature of these activities that enable the actual learning,
and provide the motivation for students to achieve for each other at a high level. The missing
piece for these groups in a virtual world is collaboration.
 
And that’s why being together in a room working out common problems to achieve common
goals is the key element in motivating students and keeping them interested in these elective
courses—even without a pandemic to deal with.
 
In our particular situation, OCHS band students started summer rehearsals one week later
(July 13th) than originally planned due to the roof construction and related issues with
building access caused by the work being done. Students reported to evening meetings in
groups that did not involve the entire band; brass players met on Mondays, with woodwinds
and percussion rehearsing on Thursdays from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Each student completed a
health screening (temp and COVID contact questions) prior to leaving home for rehearsals,
and their temperatures were verified when they arrived. All rehearsals were held outdoors,
in the parking lot in front of our band room. Attendance at these rehearsals was voluntary,
but attendance was surprisingly strong considering the circumstances.
 
After two weeks of evening rehearsals, we held a one-week camp at OCHS, with the same
groups of students from the previous weeks arriving on campus at either 9:00 a.m. or 6:00
p.m. for three-hour sectional and full ensemble rehearsals. They worked with our staff of
para-professionals that also work with the students throughout the school year. To conclude
camp on Friday, a single rehearsal block was held from 9:00 a.m. to noon, with all students
attending.
 
My take-aways from all of this:
 
In-person instruction is the best and quickest way to get our schools and programs back to
what they were in March of 2020 before we went to NTI. Given all that’s happened and all
that will continue to frustrate the system, it will take years (not weeks or months) after a
return to consistent, collaborative in-person rehearsals to return our ensembles to their
former levels of performance proficiency. How do I know this? Previous experience!
Remember the opening of South Oldham High School?
 
There is no substitute for collaborative rehearsals in the band world. My students learn much
more from each other in daily rehearsals than they do from me—they are the people doing
the actual “work”, I’m only the guide. If we aren’t together, a vital component of our
learning process is missing.
 
The social nature of collaborative ensembles is the main reason why kids choose them and
stick with them for years. Music is simply the glue that provides the common goals for
ensembles.
 
The best example of these things struck me as we were completing our Friday band camp
rehearsal. My students all came together, socially-distanced in our outdoor “rehearsal lot” to
attempt to play some of the music they had worked on in their section groups for the
previous four days.
 
This was the first time these students had played together in FOUR MONTHS, and the first
time ever for nearly 50 incoming 9th grade students to play with their high school band. The
fact that the playing was not perfect, that some kids were still struggling to keep up, that the
intonation could have been better...none of that mattered, to me or to them.
 
The smiles and the obvious look of satisfaction on students’ faces said more about what that
45 minutes together really meant than I could express to them. I tried to do so but was so
overwhelmed by the moment that I probably would have ruined it if I made an attempt.
They realized that they will eventually be alright, as long as the opportunity to collaborate
and work toward common goals is there for them.
 
That last 45-minute long experience was the most valuable and significant for us since March
12th.

 
It makes all of the current struggle worth it, both for the teacher and the student. Keeping
kids’ needs first and understanding there is more to educating than learning facts alone will
be our best guide as we figure this out.