The Triad is home to a college marching band many believe to be one of the best in the country: the North Carolina A&T Blue & Gold Marching Machine.
After an abnormal year, that Old Aggie Spirit is back on campus, with precautions of course.
“We provided special masks so students can play and perform at the same time and still remain covered. There are bell coverings,” said Assistant Director Dr. Lamon Lawhorn.
Plexiglass separates the seats. Disinfectant stations are everywhere. They also brought in air purifiers.
So there’s the physical adjustment, but there’s also the social adjustment after a year of pandemic learning.
“Some people forgot how to speak to people because they were locked up in a room for so long,” said sophomore trombone player Brandon Smith. “So being back is truly good. It’s a different type of feeling because everybody is waiting for the band to be back. Band is a part of some people’s lives and people love band. So when it’s gone, people are missing a part of themselves.”
Staying safe in the band bubble so they can get to football season begins with accountability.
“It’s something that’s brought up every single day,” said RJ Reynolds High School alum and Golden Delight captain Kyrah Henderson. “If someone tests positive for COVID, the whole section is out. They were just saying yesterday we can’t go without the trumpet section. We can’t go without Golden Delight. We can’t go without every single section in the band. So you have to wear your mask. You have to fight through it.”
The band hasn’t performed a live show since the Honda Battle of the Bands in January of 2020.
“Some people, that was the end of their band career even though it might now have been the end of their college career. I know that was really hard on some people,” explained drum major Randolph Williams.
Instead of a football game, this season will start the same way: going up against some of the best HBCU bands in the country in the National Battle of the Bands in Houston.
“It’s a highlight to be able to say that my senior year I kicked it off by getting on a plane and flying somewhere. That’s something that nobody in the band currently has experienced,” Williams said. “That’s exciting for me. But it’s really exciting for the freshmen, knowing you started your college career in the Blue and Gold Marching Machine getting on a plane and flying to Houston.”
“Allowing the Blue and Gold Marching Machine to be in this venue, in this avenue is going to open eyes, open ears, and open doors for those who are not 100-percent familiar with the program,” Dr. Lawhorn added.
He says even with all the precautions they’ve taken, the staff is also reminding everyone we’re still in a pandemic. Students and staff who aren’t vaccinated are tested multiple times a week. And regardless of vaccination status, everyone is tasked with doing their part to make sure the band stays COVID-free.
“We’re really holding each other accountable every step of the way because it’s not COVID is over,” Henderson told us. “It’s not post-pandemic. We are in a pandemic right now.”
“Texas itself is in a really bad state right now. So even if we do everything we can, we’re going to a place where we might run into some trouble there,” Williams explained. “We get tested before we come back. So we might make it to Houston, but we still have to make it home.”
The National Battle of the Bands is August 29.