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Monday, December 06, 2021

UW Varsity Band practices in-person for the first time since COVID-19

The UW-Madison Varsity Band met in-person last week to practice together for the first time in over a year. 

Each attendee had to present a green Badger Badge upon entry while the rehearsal continued to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines regarding mask-wearing and physical distancing. The band utilized bell-covers to limit the air from their instruments, as well as masks with slits for playing. 

Although the band was split into two groups for one-hour-long practices and some members were not able to join, it was an exciting milestone for players.

“It was amazing to finally get to play with a full-sounding ensemble,” said UW-Madison sophomore and trumpet player Travis Austin. 

Online practices throughout the last year have been “a bit annoying” as technical difficulties and challenges with recording emerged, according to Austin. 

“Having to record music to click-tracks has given me a whole new level of respect for studio musicians,” Austin said. 

Evan Hakamaki — a UW-Madison junior and new member of the drumline — reiterated these sentiments, describing online band practices as “a little weird.” 

“Trying to practice something which requires everyone to normally be together makes improvement as a group more difficult, as most of the focus is on your personal growth,” said 

Hakamaki, mentioning how submitting video assignments is a “bit tricky” at 11 p.m. when “roommates probably don’t want to hear crash cymbals.” 

Similarly, Austin explained that tensions have risen with neighbors when practicing at home this winter. 

“Thankfully, it’s nice outside again and I can practice in parking garages again,” said Austin. 

Overall, both Austin and Hakamaki missed having the opportunity to practice with the entire ensemble throughout the last year. 

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“Hearing varsity [band] in person brought me back to the Kohl Center and playing for hockey games,” said Austin in response to last week’s practice. 

“Getting to play with the band for the first time ever was really cool,” Hakamaki continued, underscoring how he is happy to see friends as well. “It felt awesome to feel the power behind the band actually come to life for the first time in more than a year.”

It is unclear when the band will be able to play at large events and gatherings again, but members remain optimistic for the fall. 

“My biggest hope is for us to return to Camp Randall this fall,” said Austin. “The pace and intensity of the band during the football season is going to be amazing to eventually return to.” 

Austin is also eager for new members — like Hakamaki — who “haven’t truly experienced what the band is like yet,” to march into Camp Randall for the first time on Sept. 4.

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