March on: Catching up with the Pride of Dayton

The University of Dayton marching band is staying strong and finding creative ways to “march on.”

Lauren Durham
Arts & Entertainment Editor

The football field may be empty this fall, but the show is not over for the Pride of Dayton Marching Band.

Comprised of over 150 students from the University of Dayton, Wright State and Sinclair Community College, the “POD” is facing a marching band season unlike any other. Although there are obvious challenges, the group is optimistic about the year ahead.

“There’s no way to make this look normal, so why bother pretending,” said Kenneth Will, director of the Pride of Dayton Marching Band and Concert Band.

“We’ve taken the approach to embrace the weird on all of this.”

The official season began Aug. 18 with a condensed version of POD’s annual band camp. Safety measures were put into place, including social distancing at all times and mask-wearing for both the students… and their instruments.

“Something that’s unique to bands is bell coverings or instrument coverings, so on the end of your trumpet, having a cover that goes over it is basically a mask for your instrument to prevent aerosols from spreading,” Will said.

Additionally, the directors and leadership team were excited to utilize two different apps that allow for paperless drills and sheet music.

Will said, “We’re going to learn things that we actually like, that we want to keep, that we sustain — and I really think that using these apps is going to be one of these things.”

Online classes have been challenging, especially since not all students have their instruments available. The past three weeks of remote learning forced the band to get extra creative. In order to keep the students involved, some have temporarily switched to makeshift percussion instruments.

“He’s having us use household instruments and other random things to make it a little more fun,” said Emily Kramer, senior music education major and drum major.

Some of the homemade  instruments include basketballs, peanut butter jars and lamp posts. Currently, Will is working on editing over 100 of the  individual videos together. Students are also planning mini section showcases with the hopes of having in-person performances in the near future.

The group has devoted time to reviewing the history and traditions of the band in addition to playing music remotely. Dating back to 1904, the Pride of Dayton Marching Band has persevered through difficult times, and this year doesn’t seem to look any different.

“I’ve found reward in places where you don’t typically find it. Usually, you think about a marching band experience or any performing ensemble and it’s about the performance… that’s not something that’s really a reality for our students this year,” said Will. “So, we’ve had to kind of re-adjust how we think about our approach to band and why we do things.”

Although large performances with hundreds of people in the stands are not likely in the near future, the group still has faith that the season will look somewhat normal as the year progresses.

Since many students in POD also participate in the pep band during basketball season, the outlook for performances in the spring is complicated. Nevertheless, the directors and leadership team are prepared to adapt.

Overall, Will, feels that even in these strange circumstances, the Pride of Dayton family is just as strong as it has always been.

“I still strongly believe if you join the Pride of Dayton and you become a part of this family, it’s the best thing you can do on UD’s campus,” Will said.