In the midst of football season being canceled, fans have still had one thing to look forward to: The Pride of the Dakotas. To ensure the safety of performers, rehearsals and performances were adjusted to adhere to social distancing and safety guidelines. Drills were written to be 6 feet apart, masks were worn until musicians needed to play and bell covers were placed on various instruments to limit the spread of aerosol droplets. These creative solutions were all implemented in preparation for a safe 2020 band season, beginning with a performance Sept. 26.
While that Saturday did not have the usual Jackrabbits football game, the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium was still filled with the familiar sound of The Pride of the Dakotas. In a collaboration with Jackrabbits Athletics, Pride members were able to perform for their friends and family. Their show, “Women of Rock,” was live-streamed for those who were not able to be in attendance. Kevin Kessler, director of athletic bands, discussed the preparation for the show in the months leading up to the fall semester. “I had around six individual working plans for the fall, some of them involved having football and some did not.” Once the Jackrabbits fall football season was canceled, Kessler said the real planning began for this performance. “Then it went to a discussion of what is in the best interests of our students from a health and safety standpoint, first of all, but then second of all from an experience standpoint,” said Kessler.
This priority for the student and community experience also brought forward other ideas for The Pride. “How are we going to keep the students interested and engaged? How are we going to help the campus community in light of all this? And that’s where the small group performances came up,” said Kessler. For the first four Fridays in October, The Pride split into four small groups to perform at the Sylvan Theatre and Jackrabbit Green on campus. Each section consisted of 55 performers, with one section performing at each location in a rotation. Two sections performed one Friday, then the other two sections performed the following Friday. Kessler said giving band members a break between performances was important with everyone experiencing the stress of the semester.
The performances have been a hit for campus and the Brookings community. With over 100 in attendance for a 30-minute performance, Kessler is happy The Pride can bring joy to the times we are in. “That’s why we decided to do these concerts, we need to help share some joy,” said Kessler. Joy was certainly spread as community members, students, friends and parents of Pride members sat and enjoyed the music filling the air in the Sylvan Theatre.
Drum major Matthew Morgan echoed the sentiments of the joy the Pride brings the community. “During such a crazy time where social norms are being changed, we as The Pride can remain a symbol of school spirit and community. We had a blast performing again and I think it really sends a message of hope that we can eventually return to a sense of normalcy.”
Despite the modifications needed in the planning process, Kessler is optimistic about future performances. “It has made us think differently and made us get out of our routine when it comes to planning performances,” said Kessler. One thing is evident, the familiar sound of The Pride of the Dakotas will always bring joy to campus.