Band camp readies Marching Chips despite fall sports cancellations


Coopersville junior Jarrod Reister, left, gives Dewitt freshman Kaleb Wever, right, pointers on his marching technique Aug. 13 at Jack Saunders Marching Band Field.

Even though Central Michigan University football season has been canceled, the Marching Chips are still playing.

Band camp ran from Aug. 13 to 16 and was composed of more than 250 students. For the four days, the Marching Chips practiced outdoors on Jack Saunders Field and in areas surrounding the School of Music.

CMU color guard practices outside the music building Friday, Aug. 14.

“Students remain socially distanced and masked at all times,” said James Batcheller Chippewa Marching Band Director. “Brass and woodwind players adjust their masks only when playing their instruments, which are fitted with bell covers to mitigate aerosol transmission from the instruments.” 

Following CMU’s COVID-19 safety policies, the Marching Band rehearses in a “socially distanced block” about 15 by 7.5 feet, drum major Gabrielle Bass said. 

In order to limit contact, all sheet music is virtual. There are no community water coolers or uniform distribution. 

Despite different circumstances this year, Caro freshmen Sophie Brown said she is excited to learn more about the marching band community.

“If it means we can be marching together, then I’ll do it,” Brown said.

Favoring in agreement with Brown, Mount Pleasant sophomore Gabriella Phillips is all for still having the marching band experience this season.

“There’s a special chance to do marching band this year, and I want to continue with the season,” Phillips said.

Phillips said she does not mind wearing a mask. Caledonia junior and section leader Kathryn Lemon feels the same way.

“I feel really safe with the new safety policies in place," Lemon said. "I thought the masks would be a hindrance, but it’s fine."

This year, performances will be shorter, fewer and less animated, Batcheller said.  

During band camp, the pregame songs, such as "Fire Up Chips" and "Hail Chips" were heard across East campus. They also rehearsed songs like "1812 Overture" and "Scenes from Swan Lake," Bass said. 

“Our primary goals for 2020 are to provide one another and the CMU community with the sense of Chippewa Pride that has been our privilege to maintain for 98 years,” Batcheller said.

Members of the Marching Chips practice together Aug. 14 at Jack Saunders Practice Field.