While school systems continue to adjust with each COVID-19 variant, the Benjamin Russell High School band continues to navigate the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic.
“It’s been since 2019 since I have had the opportunity to speak in front of the board and at that time nobody really thought or saw what was coming,” Dale Bloodworth, band director at Benjamin Russell, said. “Needless to say, it’s not only changed the trajectory of education but also our education planning and support of the arts.”
Bloodworth updated the board of education members at the Alexander City School Budget Hearing on Sept. 20 on the band’s numbers and performances.
Bloodworth stated the Benjamin Russell band has roughly 80 members. Before COVID-19, they were closer to 140 members. During the first year of the pandemic, they lost 30 members and then another 30 members in the second year.
When he asked students why they were leaving the band, Bloodworth said some common answers were students needed to get a part-time job or their parents were concerned about health-related safety risks.
“I think it’s important for our students to not fear the unknown in the transitions. I know that is something we concern ourselves with across the board in all curriculums that there are so many transitions,” Bloodworth said. “And it’s uncomfortable for students. So, when we talk about making that kind of time commitment and commitment to a high standard and performance that we ask of them. Sometimes going from one to the next is an issue.”
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Bloodworth reported to the board this year has been the closest to normal with the band being able to do live performances and service the community. Bloodworth said in the next couple of years, he believes they are capable of getting the band back to around 140 members.
For the 2022 school year, the band’s theme is “Back to our roots,” which Bloodworth said he believes is a larger theme for the athletics team and the greater school community as people adjust back to a more normal lifestyle.
“The kids are engaged. They are learning very well,” Bloodworth said. “They are performing well. We’re excited about the energy they are bringing on Friday nights.”
The band will be hosting the Lake Martin Invitational Marching Contest at the Martin-Savarese Field at the Charles E. Bailey Sr. Sportplex on Oct. 1. For logistic reasons, Bloodworth said the registration is capped for the Lake Martin Invitational at 19 bands and 2,000 participants.
“We have been working very hard to maintain the quality of our program and its reputation, its 25-year operation,” Bloodworth said. “And it’s a big event that requires an enormous amount of collaboration between the city, our parents, our students and other agencies within the community.”