The New Sound of Idaho
Students Become Drummers to Continue Marching Band Legacy
The Vandal Marching Band plays rain or shine, filling the stands, field and campus with 100 years of excitement and talent. But this year, there are no sousaphone players in skirts, a time-honored tradition. This semester, because of the pandemic, every band member has become a percussionist.
Band Director Spencer Martin and his team decided that the aerosols produced from woodwind and brass instruments were too dangerous amid a virus spread through infected droplets. Shifting the “Sound of Idaho” to a drum-based ensemble solved that problem.
The slogan for the Vandal Marching Band this year is “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” They have persevered through the COVID-19 limitations and found a way to make innovative music safely.
Many music ensembles across the country are currently unable to perform, but for Martin, giving up on the band was not an option. Not only is the band an academic course, it also provides a family and support system for all its members, something everyone needs during their time in college. As innovative Vandals, they decided to do what no one else has done.
Martin and his team made the decision to become fully percussive, but it was the students who took the leap of faith to follow him on this new journey.
“One-hundred-fifty students put their trust in us to create something exciting,” Martin said.
Liz Bloomsburg, a fourth-year band member studying mechanical engineering and operations management, is one of those students who supported the new plan.
"I thought, oh, this is going to be awesome, we get to do something no one else is doing.”
I thought, oh, this is going to be awesome, we get to do something no one else is doing. Lexi Gist, first-year music education student.
“Learning a new instrument is hard,” she said, “but you take a deep breath and try, and then your brain gets used to it.” Most of the band members had never played percussion before and this semester has been about them learning a new instrument. Martin is a percussionist himself, so this drum-based semester gave him the opportunity to work one-on-one with more students.
“It has been so much fun learning something new with a group of people that love music just as much as I do,” said Lexi Gist, a first-year student studying music education. All the band members have approached the challenge together. Switching instruments was no easy feat, but the students improved exponentially after each rehearsal.
Each band practice centers around providing a musical experience in the safest way possible. Walking into rehearsal looks different than it has in the past. Students drum with face coverings and shields and are separated by six feet or more. The ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center bleachers are covered in music stands, buckets of safety supplies and non-traditional percussion instruments.
By Katy Wicks for University Communications and Marketing
Published October 2020