LASA Band Marches On: Virtual Outdoors Hybrid Adopted

Rebecca Scaramuzzi, Club Contributor

Because of quarantine and Austin Independent School District (AISD) COVID-19 regulations, LASA Band has gone almost completely virtual. Band directors are still trying to continue with some of the normal activities done in the beginning of last semester and are also introducing a few new things to the band. 

Senior Andra Key plays the mellophone and the French horn. She said that the start of this school year has been unconventional for the band because of its decreased physical activity.

“In terms of marching band, it’s totally different,” Key said. “We didn’t get to have a marching season at all, so we didn’t get to have the marching show that was planned for this year. Instead, we’ve been working on a video compiled of a bunch of different people’s audio and visual recordings.”

Junior Sophia Schlaud plays flute and has been a part of the LASA Band for two and a half years. New virtual and online resources have been introduced to the band to help students learn the music and communicate with each other as best they can.

“We’re doing a lot of stuff virtually,” Schlaud said. “We had a whole virtual summer camp, virtual leadership camp and we’ve been using Zoom and Smartmusic to learn our show and our choreography.”

With these online endeavors, new challenges have come up. Freshman Surabhi Karighattam, who plays the flute, said that technology introduced difficulties she had never thought she would have to deal with.

“Finding a good microphone and finding where to put it so your sound sounds really nice is difficult because for me my flute always sounds really screechy and ugly in recordings,” Karighattam said. “It’s really difficult to figure out where you need to put your phone: are you going to use your phone or your computer? And whatever you get is not going to be your best sound. You can hear it, and it sounds fine, but it sounds terrible in the recording. There are some good things, though. You get to rehearse for concerts and stuff. Your recording is going to be your best recording.”

Technology isn’t the only challenge; there are some things that just can’t be done virtually. One of those things is being able to play together, according to Karighattam.

“I think that it’s just not as interactive,” Karighattam said. “You feel really detached from everyone else. It’s kind of lonely to just sit at home, at your desk, just playing your instrument on mute and just sending in a recording. It feels really isolated and alone, and you just lose that sort of togetherness that you get from being in in-person band.”

However, band members still have time to connect with one in-person rehearsal a week to prepare for competitions like sectionals. The band has also been together at two football games so far.

“It’s just a sectional where we work on show music and stand tunes and stuff like that,” Schlaud said. “It’s mostly about getting ready for the football games. The football games are pretty different from normal because we only do stand tunes, so we don’t do a show at halftime. It’s still pretty fun, the football games at least. We still do most of our normal stand traditions and everything.” 

There are still risks of going in person with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as the New York Times reported that Travis County had surpassed 38,000 positive cases on Nov. 29. According to Karighattam, since the togetherness and power of playing in a large group can’t be replicated virtually, she wishes there was a better way to connect and play with other people in the band.

“On Zoom, it’s okay,” Karighattam said. “But in person…having that chaotic energy of 100 high schoolers out on a football field would just be so much fun, and I’m really sad I had to miss that.”