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Marching 100 prepares for 2020 season

The Russellville Marching 100 is celebrating being “Happy Together” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as more than 150 students completed band camp and prepared for this year’s show.

The theme of the show, “Happy Together,” is designed to embody the feeling of having all of the students back together after the pandemic has disrupted various areas of life.

“We really wanted the show to be about us just being back together and being happy we can be together,” said Russellville High School Band Director Jeremy Willis. “We wanted it to be a fun good time that the audience would enjoy watching and that we would enjoy performing.”

The show will include two medleys: “Blackbird” and “Yesterday” by the Beatles and “I Can See For Miles” by the Who with “Happy Together” by the Turtles.

The show will also feature “Time of Your Life” by Green Day and conclude with “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra.

This year’s band camp has been different from most years because of the pandemic, but Willis said his students are finding ways to push through.

“They are pretty good about checking themselves and being aware of things,” Willis said. “As things go on, we have to make sure we keep a watch on things to ensure protocols are still being followed. Sometimes it’s easy for things to begin to feel like normal, with us all being back together, but we have to remind them this isn’t normal, and we still have to make sure to follow procedures.”

Willis said several adjustments have been made to ensure social distancing. Students are divided into groups to rehearse, with groups being separated as much as possible. Willis said he does not expect to have a run-through of the show with the full band for a few more weeks.

“We want to make sure they are all aware of the rules and everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing,” Willis said.

Students will also be spread further apart within the show than they would be in typical shows, to account for social distancing.

Willis said things are also different this year when it comes to batons, flags, drum sticks or anything else that could ordinarily be shared among students.

“Everyone has their own specific ones they have to use,” Willis said. “We used to have students that would go between instruments or use someone else’s, but we have been very clear that they cannot do that this year.”

Willis said the band has also not been allowed to rehearse the music together regularly, which makes learning the material and adjusting the sound a challenge.

“It is just different, having to listen when everyone is spread so much apart,” Willis said. “We had one group play together the other day, and you could just tell it was different for them.”

Willis is also limiting the number of students who are allowed in the band room and making sure to sanitize things frequently.

“It is just something we are having to adjust to, but I think everyone is doing well,” Willis said. “We are just happy to have everyone back together, to be working toward putting together a great show.”