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Competitive marching band season canceled in Indiana

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Thousands of young drummers, horn players and majorettes won't get to compete this fall.

The Indiana State School Music Association is cancelling competitive marching band activities statewide as a new school year looms.

A note from ISSMA staff to band directors and schools blamed the decision on the pandemic.

"The ISSMA Executive Committee has decided that during the Fall of 2020, live marching band events would place an uncontrollable health risk on everyone involved in the event. Therefore, all 2020 ISSMA Marching Band events have been canceled.”

ABC21 contacted ISSMA executive director Mick Bridgewater on Thursday afternoon. He declined to confirm or deny, but said he would make a public announcement on Friday afternoon. He said he wanted to give band directors time to tell their students about the decision.

School officials we contacted declined to speak on the record.

But social media let the cat out of the bag, with some band directors posting the letter or excerpts from it. Some band families that were already privy to the news shared information sent to them by band leaders at their respective schools.

Competitive marching band is serious business in Indiana. Schools like Carroll High School, Homestead High School and Carmel High School near Indianapolis pump thousands of dollars and volunteer hours into winning top honors at competitions. The hours are long, the stakes are high and the performances are elaborate.

But none of that will happen this year, at least not officially sanctioned competition. It's unclear how individual high schools will conduct their marching band programs in the fall.

High school football teams are deep into practice and are preparing for a fall season. The IHSAA has already indicated that fall sports will move forward, even as COVID-19 numbers increase statewide and school leaders allow students to learn from home.

But band members festooned with plumage and sequins will not compete for their honors and awards. For them, the season ended before it began.

Word of the cancellation broke late Wednesday, via an Indiana drum corps website. By Thursday afternoon, news outlets across the state had confirmed the information independently.

Locally, schools were reaching out to those affected by the move.

A Carroll High School family sent us a letter received earlier in the day, one of many notifications issued over the past 24 hours.

Hello everyone!

It would seem that the surest way to bring about change in the world of Covid19 is to make plans, revise plans, revisit plans, re-design plans, communicate those plans – and then implement those plans. And it seems whenever steps like that happen, there seems to be some major news that follows that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Since Covid19 has our society, it seems like  every facet of how we live has been affected in some way, shape or form. While we have been hopeful for some return to activities we love, we’ve known from the onset that those activities would look fundamentally different.  Early this evening, Indiana Marching Band directors received a communication from the ISSMA Office.  Below is an excerpt from that email.

The ISSMA State Board met today and adopted a policy that states the health and safety of those involved in ISSMA events must be our highest priority. When the ISSMA Executive Director and the Executive Committee determine any ISSMA event would place an uncontrollable health risk on students, directors, adjudicators, or spectators the live event should be cancelled. If feasible and in compliance with all copyright laws, a virtual option should be considered.

The ISSMA Executive Committee has decided that during the Fall of 2020, live marching band events would place an uncontrollable health risk on everyone involved in the event. Therefore, all 2020 ISSMA Marching Band events have been cancelled.”

ISSMA is exploring a virtual option to provide an educational assessment of marching bands for a rating via a live stream and will be sending out additional information and a survey to determine interest next week.

As of today, in addition to Indiana, the decision to cancel fall marching band events has been made in eight other states. The ISSMA Executive Committee and the State Board wanted to notify directors prior to releasing a statement to the public to provide the opportunity for directors to inform their students, staff, and parents. We ask that you provide that opportunity to other directors by not distributing this information via social media channels, until after the public announcement is made via the ISSMA website around 1:00pm on Friday.”

So – Where do we go from here?  We not entirely sure  yet, but we wanted communicate it to you directly so you weren’t hearing about it from social media or from other, possibly unreliable sources. .  It is interesting that last season, one of the points that we tried to make sure people understood was that competition was not what the sole reason for why we do what we do – we do what we do by using music and excellence to learn how to be successful in life.  While competitions have been a major component of that experience, they are still only a component of it.  Your directors will be in communication with NACS Administration and our band staff to discuss options that we may have. 

We are asking that this information not be shared on social media, per ISSMA’s request – so all directors can communicate with their respective groups and families can hear the news through their respective appropriate channels. Additionally, it is recognized that there may be a great deal of emotion in response to this.  It is human nature for negativity and gossip to accompany negative emotions, and above everything  else – we do not need that right now.  Please be mindful of curtailing gossip and rumor, as it is almost always counter-productive not only to our mission, but to our program and most importantly – to our students.

We are still planning on band camp, as well as the already scheduled rehearsal for Friday and I would expect that you will have many, many questions.  As much as I would love to be able to say I can answer them, with the timing of this announcement coming earlier this evening  we will simply have to take some time to reflect on and reimagine what we plan on doing  and what it may look like.  At this time, there are many unanswered questions related to what, when, and where we may be performing.   But, we will continue to work to develop plans for the students and families in the Charger Pride to explore meaningful performance opportunities in our community to ensure that our mission does not change: That we will continue to use music and excellence to be successful in life.

-"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."

Maya Angelou

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