Gahanna Lincoln marching band playing season by ear

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
Gahanna Lincoln High School sophomore Ali Wilcox, 15, goes through various routines with the color guard during a marching-band practice Aug. 7 at the school. Students were separated into small groups and spread across the school grounds for safety precautions amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Gahanna Lincoln High School's Golden Lions Marching Band is learning the meaning of improvisation, according to Rob Cebriak, band director.

He said this year's band camp and preparation for an uncertain season, as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus, are challenges like nothing the band has experienced.

"The big thing the musicians are learning is how to improvise," Cebriak said. "Their attitudes are great. The positive outlook is there."

He said the 170-member band had an "almost normal" band camp July 28-30.

"The only change was we couldn't play inside," he said. "By being inside, it gets the kids out of the heat. So we reduced the time from five hours to three."

He said the students were very happy to be together.

"Then on July 30, we got the call we were shutting down," Cebriak said.

By Aug. 3, Superintendent Steve Barrett announced that some extracurricular activities, including band and sports, could resume immediately under certain guidelines.

The band could practice with a reduced number, nine members at a time.

"Meeting in groups of nine is a stopgap," Cebriak said. "You're supposed to have forms on the field. Trying to rehearse with all the parts not being there, it doesn't feel like band."

To get things moving, Cebriak said, the pregame and halftime shows were arranged by exceeding the recommendation of members being 6 feet apart.

All band members also have been wearing facial coverings at practice.

"We will salvage whatever part of the season we can," Cebriak said. "If we can only do some football games, we will. We can make a video to be shown. We want to have at least one good performance. We just don't know what it is yet."

Cebriak said band council, made up of elected seniors, usually plans team-building games for band camp, but most of them had to be canceled this season.

"They couldn't do those because they're too close (in proximity)," he said. "They've been great about coming up with alternative ideas."

Ana Bretscher, band council vice president, said the band has been taking everything in stride.

"We're really excited for the upcoming season," she said. "Every year, the band takes a trip to Cedar Point. We're looking to push it back to the end of the school year instead of now. We also organized, decorating a covered patio area that people could see (at band camp). I think there's still some planning for inside. We do have decorations for that."

Seth Stemen, band council president, said seeing everyone at band camp was great.

"The distancing felt really weird at first," he said. "We have 7 1/2 feet between each person. In a normal marching season, we're almost shoulder to shoulder. It's not possible this year."

Stemen, who plays clarinet, said the coronavirus has been a good learning experience.

He said one idea the council is working on is a weekly online game night.

"It's to get our minds off all the cancellations," Stemen said.

Cebriak said the big show that's being planned for the season is called "Hollywood Heroes."

The show will feature "The Raiders March" from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "This Is Me" from "The Greatest Showman" and music from "The Pink Panther" and "The Incredibles," as well as a medley from the "Star Trek" television show and movies.

Bretscher, who plays flute, said "Hollywood Heroes" showcases very recognizable music.

"I'm very excited," she said. "We're having the best positive attitude we can, even though we have to wear masks and we can't see each other's smiles.

"I want a safe and happy year."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla

Gahanna Lincoln High School senior Melissa Castro, 17, practices marching routines with her fellow band members during a practice session Aug. 7 at the school. Students were separated into small groups and spread across the school grounds for safety precautions amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.