Eye on KELOLAND: Virtual band concert caps off unique year


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — During a time when the coronavirus is keeping us all apart, music is having a way of bringing many back together.

In an effort to end the school year on a high note, the Memorial Middle School Band Director challenged students from all over the Sioux Falls School District to join in on a virtual performance.

Featuring students and band directors from more than eight different elementary, middle and high schools in Sioux Falls, this is Band-O-Rama March.

Roosevelt Freshman Brady Roland pops up often in the video.

Holsen: It looks like you’re into music a little bit.
Roland: Just a little bit yeah.

Roland says he likes to take part in anything band-related he can get his drumsticks on. Luckily he got in some marching band and jazz band before COVID-19 turned school into remote learning.

Holsen: Are you pretty grateful that you were able to get some of that in before the pandemic hit? Roland: Definitely yeah. I did as much as I really could relating to band activities and whatnot. Our show choir season got cut short which is kind of a bummer. You’ve just got to roll with the punches.

“I think music and the arts in general are a great way for us to kind of keep our humanity during times like this,” Laughlin said.

Memorial Band Director John Laughlin says teaching music this year was challenging but technology helped out a lot.

“There’s going to be some things that we figured out during this whole process that we’re going to continue using going forward even if we are all together. So I think there are benefits and there’s definitely lots of lessons to be learned. I think the teachers maybe even learned more than the kids did during this process,” Laughlin said.

Laughlin puts together a virtual band video each year at his school but in 2020, he invited kids from the whole district to take part.

“It seems like everyone really liked the project. I’m happy with how it turned out,” Laughlin said.

It took him 20 hours over three days to piece together video and audio clips sent in by roughly 150 kids.

“I was like, I don’t have anything to do at home. So I mean it sounds like a fun project to do so why not be a part of it,” Roland said.

Roland says he’s never done anything like this before. Instead of performing with the band in person, he listened to a track on his headphones and played along.

“It’s different when you’re with an actual band in person. You can look around to all the fellow instrumentalists and kind of just like dial in. Here all you have is a recording track. You have to roll with that and see where it takes you,” Roland said.

“It was really cool to see all the different people with their instruments and just seeing all the different music come together. Given that we’re all at different homes, it came together pretty well,” Roland said.

Depending on what school looks like next fall, Laughlin might ask students to record themselves playing instruments again early on.

“We don’t know what the fall is going to look like. We’re hoping that we can be together and practicing normally and having concerts. In the event that maybe this fall we won’t be able to play for big, packed houses like we like to do, then this is something that we might try again in the fall,” Laughlin said.

Bringing people together with music no matter the circumstances.

“It’s been a really positive reaction. Everyone seems to enjoy it,” Laughlin said.

If you’d like a link to the full video, click here.

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