'Everything that we do, we can't do.' As Big Ten football takes the field, how are the sidelined marching bands coping?

By Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Lifestyles

"We mainly tell stories, relay to people how we feel, and how we've felt for the last three years about this band."

The band directors share videos online to give everyone – and especially new band members – "an idea of our history and who we are," says U. of I. student Horton. "We show them videos of our shows, so they can understand what we do in context."

Though everyone agrees that the online experience is about as far from the real thing as imaginable, it has been a balm to those who love marching band.

"It feels like a little bit of normal," says U. of I. student Christensen.

"At first it took some adjusting to get used to it," says Northwestern student Daehler. "Now that we're kind of in the groove, it's the best Zoom that I have all day. To see people who I really know – it's the quickest hour that I spend."

All are looking forward to getting off the screen and onto the field, whenever that may be. Until then, they're making the best of what band directors Houser and Farris both term a "challenge."

"It would be easy to give up and say we'd shut this down," says U. of I. band director Houser.

"It's something you have to reimagine."


Along those lines, he plans to record a video with the band outdoors next Wednesday (with special protocols in place). That will mark the first time the Marching Illini have gathered in person this season.

"I think that's going to be a lot more magical than what we even anticipate now," says Houser. "The fact that we'll get to see each other, we hope it will be a magical moment.

"Our students are going to get to see each other in person, as opposed to as a dream.

"For myself, that will be an amazing time."

Says U. of I. student Christensen, "The situation may not be great now. But we will be back."

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