Saturday, Sept. 4, the North Dakota State University Gold Star Marching Band will make their debut performance at the first NDSU sporting event in two years. The marching band will finally return to playing during NDSU football games and performing half-time field shows after COVID-19 restrictions severely limited their ability to perform last year.
Dr. Sigurd Johnson has been the director of the marching band at NDSU since 2008 after leaving his position at Valley City State University.
Johnson says he is excited for what this year will bring for the marching band after the challenges the department faced last school year.
“It’s great to be back. It’s great to be preparing for the first game on Saturday,” Johnson said. “We’re starting to get more of these normal band activities to go back to and participate in.”
During the 2020-2021 school year the band program faced COVID-19 restrictions that made even having a band a challenge.
“Performing arts was critically affected. I think we did an excellent job of trying to minimize that, but there is no getting around the fact that music and theater were greatly affected. We live-streamed all of our recitals, concerts and things, but it’s just not the same thing.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the marching band was only allowed to practice outside. If the weather didn’t cooperate, they were forced to cancel rehearsals.
“As you can imagine, weather was a big factor. But now, and before, we could always work on music inside but that wasn’t an option at the time. The biggest thing last year was not being able to move. We weren’t able to do any drills, any formations or any marching.”
The restrictions were felt all over the music department. There were no audiences at any concerts last year. Directors had to limit the size of ensembles and split bands into smaller groups because there were too many people to maintain social distancing on the stage. During practices, students had to maintain six feet of space to social distance and were required to wear masks.
The department provided students with masks that were designed so students were able to play their instruments. The masks had openings to allow the instruments to reach students’ mouths and then folded around the mouthpiece to prevent particles from leaving the masks.
“We still have these masks for the music department. We just ordered another 200 masks for this year.”
According to Dr. Johnson, the size of the Gold Star Marching Band had taken a hit during the pandemic. There were around 130 band members during the 2020 marching season. Comparatively, there are 180 in the band currently.
“We had a number of students who decided that wasn’t a good year for their participation. I think people saw the lack of activities and the things many of them signed up to be in band for were not going to happen. So, they decided not to participate, and I don’t blame them at all.”
The Gold Star Marching Band is open to students of all majors. The band meets for practices in the evenings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Students also gain course credit for their involvement in the band.
“About 80% of the band are non-music majors. I think the main part of being in the band is being able to be in a large community of people that have a lot of spirit, a lot of fun and have the desire to make music together.”
The only requirements to join the marching band are to know how to play an instrument and read music; however, registration for this season is closed.
“When registration rolls around for fall 2022 make sure you sign up for the marching band. It starts with band camp, and it just keeps going all the way through the semester.”
The Gold Star Marching Band will perform during all Bison football home games at the Fargodome.