Michigan Marching Band prepares for first-ever digital show

A small number of Michigan Marching Band members pose at the empty Michigan Stadium during a photoshoot. (Eric Bronson, E.Bronson/Michigan Photography)

ANN ARBOR – For the first time in 123 years, the Michigan Marching Band band will be performing virtually.

An increase in coronavirus cases at the University of Michigan caused school and Washtenaw County health authorities to issue a 14-day emergency stay-in-place order on Tuesday for all undergraduates.

Even before the emergency order was enforced, U-M announced that home football game tickets would not be sold to members of the public due to the health crisis, and that includes seeing the Michigan Marching Band’s live halftime show.

The band has adapted to a virtual format for performances, and will be releasing its first digital show in November.

Michael Grasinski (center) and Sean McSweeney (right) rehearse with their clarinets covered by personal protective equipment. (E.Bronson/Michigan Photography)

From the way the band practices to how students play their instruments, the program has undergone a complete overhaul to observe the latest health recommendations. Such measures include new personal protective equipment that attaches to their instruments.

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Michigan Marching Band’s 56th drum major, senior Walter Aguilar, said he has shifted his focus to keep the spirit of the 400-member band alive during these unprecedented times.

“My focus has been on translating the traditions and excitement to new members in order to keep the community and spirit of the Michigan Marching Band thriving,” Aguilar said in a statement. “I want them all to know and feel valued by the band even though they are participating remotely.”

For many students, their second time in uniform on the field this season was for a September photo shoot. Some had only seen each other for the first time in person that day.

This season, practices have been taking place in small groups in-person and online. The first show, titled “Hail to the Frontline Heroes” will honor frontline service and medical workers. Instead of marching, individual members' performances will be edited together in a video presentation.

Although it looks completely different than the average season, as piccolo player Kelly Souza said, virtual shows are better than the alternative.

“For me, some form of band was better than no band at all,” Souza said in a statement.

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.