Marching band adapts after pandemic-induced decrease in student enrollment

Matthew Flores, Web Editor

Band President Katie Jacques (12) joins the baritone section in a marching band practice on the lower field, Sept. 14. She and the other senior members of the baritone section are working hard to be role models for new, more inexperienced members. Photo by Swasti Singhai.

Section by section, Westview GOLD marching band assembled but did not quite fill the bleachers before the football game Aug. 27. With a much smaller group beside her than in past years, Band President Katie Jacques (12) looked ahead, lifted her oboe, and began to play.
Despite band’s flourishing numbers in prior years, this year’s program saw a significant decrease in recruitment by about 29.2% from the 2019-20 school year.
According to Jacques, band’s low enrollment put greater pressure on more experienced members of the band to compensate for the ensemble’s shortage of instruments.
“I wouldn’t say that the numbers are so low that we can’t have a full sound, but individuals have to step up a bit more,” Jacques said.
Reflecting on one of their earliest performances during the first home football game against Mater Dei, Jacques said the band started off on a good note despite their current challenge.
“It went pretty smoothly, especially thanks to the upperclassmen, who are the most dedicated people right now,” she said. “So I wouldn’t say we’ve lost the ability to perform well, but it’s going to be more difficult to get the super loud and powerful effect we used to have.”
Ryan Korb (12) has been a dedicated member of GOLD since freshman year, essentially making him one of the cornerstones of band.
Korb stayed in band through the years because it’s been a strong backbone for his high school life.
“It’s been a nice stabilizer for me and having a constant class throughout the year is very relieving,” Korb said. “You meet a lot of people you wouldn’t [normally] meet, and sure you could take normal classes, but I wouldn’t be able to experience a lot of things like having senior friends as a freshman going to bonfires, and having exposure to a lot of different influences.”
Korb hopes the incoming band students will be able to experience the things that he did throughout his years, which he said will help strengthen the band’s spirit and unity.
Korb agrees with Jacques that members need to step up to compensate for the new members.
“The freshmen and sophomores haven’t done it in person at all, so it’s just the juniors and us seniors who have experience,” he said. “[The underclassmen] are just learning but as time goes by they’re going to start to get the hang of it,” he said.
Both groups of underclassmen this year came from an online band setting, which Jacques says was the main cause of the declining enrollment.
“Online band is just not an activity that works over Zoom,” Jacques said. “I think that this was the driving force for a lot of people quitting because it takes up so much time.”
Korb’s section of clarinets saw absolutely no incoming underclassmen.
“We’ve retained zero freshmen this year for the clarinet section, but I don’t blame them either because of online band,” he said.
As bleak as this seems however, Jacques said that Westview is not the only school experiencing a shortage of new members to the band program.
“I know that all schools in our area are pretty much struggling with the number of people,” she said. “So at least we’re not the only school that’s having lower numbers,” she said.
Both Korb and Jacques do agree that despite the shortage of people, band will be able to perform to its best ability due to the commitment of the upperclassmen and the passion of the directors.
“The leadership of the program is still going strong, so I don’t think that band will die out,” said Jacques. “But like I said, we’re going to have to step up more than usual.”