Office of the VP for Communications – Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

Marching to the beat of a different drum

Theme and variations

Masked members of the MMB 2020

Masked members of the MMB 2020 pose with clarinets at Elbel Field in September. (Photo: Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.)

For someone who never participated in marching band, I am a certified band geek.

So when I read this issue’s lead story, “The (virtual) show must go on,” I was both devastated and inspired. The author is Michigan News communications assistant Jessica Jimenez, a senior studying business administration with a focus on marketing and communications. She also plays in the marching band with her identical twin sister.

The story is a lemons-into-lemonade piece about finding the hidden value in a crisis like COVID-19. And it’s all really cool until you let it sink in that coronavirus has robbed every one of these young performers of a rare and wonderful experience. Just think about this: It took Drum Major Walter Aguilar about a year to perfect the iconic Michigan backbend he will never perform in a jam-packed Michigan Stadium. But, damn, he sure looks great in that mask.

The students demonstrate remarkable resilience. They are adapting to the new normal, donning personal protective equipment, and showing up for virtual practice. The faculty are devising ways to maintain continuity and connection. All of their efforts right now are aimed at a recorded show titled “Hail to the Frontline Heroes”  that will honor medical and service workers.

A typical fall afternoon should be consumed with pregame sequencing, marching formations, and show rehearsals. That’s where the magic happens. That’s where lifelong friendships are formed and tight-knit communities are forged. Or is it?

Bonded by the pandemic in ways their predecessors will never comprehend, MMB #123 is maximizing the virtual possibilities to mind-bending effect. As one student says, “For me, some form of band was better than no band at all.” Once the actual marching returns, it’s guaranteed the community will be stronger than ever.

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