UNI Panther Marching Band plays on
They may not be marching this year, but the University of Northern Iowa’s Panther Marching Band (PMB) will play on.
The COVID-19 pandemic ensured this wasn’t the 120th season the nearly 300 PMB members anticipated, but the student group is pressing on, finding creative ways to stay safe, socialize and continue doing what they love even during a pandemic that has delayed the fall football season. They have performances scheduled throughout the semester.
“I was really excited when I found out we would still have PMB even though there’s no football.” said Karissa Jensen, psychology major and trumpet player. “It means a lot to be able to come back and reunite with all my friends and play music, because it’s always my favorite part of fall.”
Much has changed. The entire band is wearing matching blue surgical masks during rehearsal. Slits have been carefully cut in the material to allow wind musicians to bring their mouthpiece directly to their face. Regular face masks are layered over the top when students are moving from one location to another during rehearsal.
“The PMB is a class, one that offers a comprehensive musical and educational experience. The performances at football games are just one snapshot of the work that we do.” said Justin Mertz, director of the Panther Marching Band. “We decided that we could still offer a safe musical and educational experience, even if the performances were not at football games.”
Even the instruments have been overhauled to create a safer environment. Brass instruments such as the trumpet or trombone have their bells covered with nylon to block aerosols without compromising the sound. Spit valves are wrapped with strips of absorbent rags. Instruments such as the saxophone are placed inside custom-sewn bags. Air and spit are able to escape from several spots, and it remains contained. Aerosols, a prime way that COVID-19 spreads, are unable to escape the instrument.