Band camp successful as new school year starts for USD 382 students

Jordyn Sanko
Pratt Tribune
Pratt High School Marching Band practices an Aztec Fire performance under the direction of drum major Dawson Malone in their Latin-themed show. Band camp took place last week on Zerger Field with students observing social distancing and masks as needed.

At Pratt High School, extracurricular activities have begun again, despit of coronavirus pandemic changes. Band camp started on August 10 and ended August 12, after being rescheduled the week before. USD 382 band director Jeffrey Poort and assistant director Brandon Wade made a few changes to how the camp was conducted while maintaining the purpose of the program.

In adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines, band members followed social distancing recommendations both indoors and outdoors. Masks were worn when instruments weren’t in use. These methods will carry on into the school year. 

Unfortunately, safety measures also meant shorter practice and less days of camp to limit exposure. In prior years, each day of band camp started at 7 a.m. and ended at 5, with a two-hour lunch break from 11 to 1 o’clock. This year it started at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m.. Due to this, band bonding activities were cancelled. 

“In any other year, we would have had more fun activities besides the music and marching,” Poort said. “The situation required us to make some sacrifices so we could still have camp with reduced risk.”

One of the virtues Pratt High School upholds is grit. Grit has proven itself to be instrumental in trying to simulate a normal school year as new obstacles introduce themselves.

“I had to slow down my process a bit to allow for these risk reduction strategies,” Poort said. “I also had to remind myself to model these new procedures and take time to remind others of their importance.” 

Beyond mentoring, the directors and section leaders had to be examples in following the regulations for covid that will keep schools open and functioning.

Although things may be different this year, expectations in the band room remain the same. 

“My expectations in many ways were the same as always, which is to have fun, work hard, and to do your best,” Poort said. “Every year's outcome is a little different, but doing our best to learn, grow, and have fun as a group is always my goal. I believe we did that and grew as people and as musicians as a result.” 

There are still plans for a field show, even if football is cancelled later in the season. Live Streams will take the place of live performances if that is the case. If licensing cannot be obtained, the band will focus on concert pieces for the upcoming contest season.

“Right now, I'm planning to still have a field show, perform at football games, basketball games, and hopefully regular concerts,” Poort said. “Those will have to be done differently, but as long as we can do them safely, we will.” 

Poort said if school is cancelled, the focus of music classes will shift to individual performance skills through solo literature. 

“We’ve all had to adapt, even if those adaptations detract from the typical high school experience,” Poort said. “Last year we were not able to have several concerts and contests, send off our graduating seniors the way we'd like, or work together as a group. It's hard to say what effect another round of shutdowns would have. That depends on when and for how long, but we'll be ready.”

Poort remains optimistic for the school year that starts this week.

“I'm very proud of the students' achievement at this year's camp! We have a promising freshmen group and a strong group of upperclassmen and student leaders,” he said. “I believe the students adapted quite well to the changes we had to implement to reduce risk. If I know one thing, it is that I am privileged to lead a fantastic group of students that always rise to the occasion when challenged.”