Sunday, August 16, 2020

Neff Jacket Rep & Practices

NEFF JACKET REP: A reminder that Mike Faulkner, the Neff Jacket representative, will be in the Band Room on Tuesday August 18th from 3:30p-5p. If we should have to cancel practice because of weather, Mr. Faulkner will still be there during this time. You can purchase a letterman jacket or, if you already have a jacket, you can purchase patches/bars. Remember, you can only get a "C" letter for your jacket if you have marched for at least one school year. Also, if you already have a jacket, you can order patches or bars to go on it, but Neff will not take the jacket back and sew them on - you will have to get them sewn on yourself. Lastly, if you are ordering a jacket, Mr. Faulkner will let you pay 1/2 of the cost when ordering, with the other 1/2 due in 4-6 weeks when the jackets are delivered. You may get a jacket order form from Mr. Newsome, Mr. Fortner, or HERE

PRACTICES: Speaking of cancelling practice because of weather, we have had to do it multiple times over the last few weeks. I know you're all as frustrated by that as I am, but I am also committed to everyone's health & safety first, and the GMEA still currently recommends cancelling outdoor practice if there is a strong chance of rain. COVID numbers for Georgia and Cook County are still high, so we are still taking every precaution. If I have to cancel practice because of weather, I am going to make every effort to do that by 1p on practice day so it's not at the last minute and parents can make arrangements.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Brief Update...

Just a couple of updates about football season. First, I'm sure you're already aware, but the Georgia High School Association made the decision to push the start of the season back two weeks. We had two scrimmage games scheduled for this year, one against Valwood in Valdosta, and one against Lanier County at home. The one against Valwood was cancelled by us, and last week the GHSA also decided that there would be no scrimmage games at all this year, so that means we won't have a scrimmage game against Lanier County either. Our first game will now be against Ware County in Waycross on Friday September 4th. The Hornet Football page on the website has been updated to reflect the new schedule.

I have also decided that we're not going to start the season in band uniform coats, bibbers, and shoes. Instead we're going to wear jeans, tennis shoes, and a solid black t-shirt until we can get our yearly band t-shirts ready. All students need to have a solid black t-shirt with no logos or marks of any kind on it. If the season continues past the third game, we'll break out uniforms for Homecoming against Randolph-Clay on October 2nd and continue to wear them through the remainder of the season.

It's a drastically different year, but we're going to keep making the best of it!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Band Camp & Regular Practice Schedule

I'm still planning to go forward with Band Camp this week, but, because of in-person and virtual Open House on Tuesday & Wednesday at CHS, we're going to have to modify the schedule.

  • Monday 8/3 will be as scheduled, with woodwinds/VU 5p-7p, and brass/percussion 7p-9p. 
  • Tuesday 8/4 & Wednesday 8/5, VU will meet 7p-9p with Miss Donna, but band & percussion won't be able to meet because the Open House schedule has both Mr. Fortner and myself tied up all afternoon and evening.
  • Thursday 8/6, we will meet with everyone again, with brass/percussion from 5p-7p and woodwinds/VU from 7p-9p. (The opposite of Monday)

Once school starts, we are going to practice every Tuesday and Thursday from 4p-6p on our practice field. If it should rain on any of our practice days, we will still be cancelling those practices. If we're forced to cancel a practice for weather, I will send out messages via Remind, Facebook, and Twitter, so please make sure you are connected to us in one of those ways. If you don't know how, the instructions for all three of those at the bottom of the main page of the website.

At all practices, please make sure to follow both the COVID-19 guidelines for masks and social distancing, as well as our normal three procedures for every practice: 1. EAT, 2. DRINK, and 3. DRESS. All of those guidelines and procedures can all be found on previous posts.

We will be playing our instruments at practice this week, so bring those with you when you come. I can't tell you how excited I am to hear us make some music again!!

Saturday, July 25, 2020


I have been actively following both the COVID-19 numbers for Cook and surrounding counties and the weather for next week.

I follow several official Coronavirus trackers, and all of them are showing that COVID-19 numbers are still on the rise in Cook County, and that the percentage of infection is as high or higher than many counties surrounding us. Over the last few weeks, as I have tried to plan what our band camp would look like, I have been on several Zoom calls with band directors from counties in our area. Some directors are having band camp with a few restrictions, some are having band camp with many restrictions, and some have cancelled band camp completely depending on their bands' size, local COVID-19 infection rates, and their facilities. I know how important band camp is to our students, and how we're all looking forward to trying to get back to something as "normal" as possible, so I decided to set a number of strong restrictions and go forward with camp while still monitoring.

As I said in a previous post, I am following the guidelines from the NFSHA, GMEA, and GHSA, and at the current time they recommend only outside rehearsal if we're playing instruments. The weather is therefore important, because they recommend cancelling practice if there is the possibility of rain. Currently, there is a 50% or higher chance of rain for every day that we have scheduled camp this coming week.

Because of both infection numbers and weather, I've decided to postpone camp for a week to August 3rd - 6th. I currently plan to follow the same divided schedule that was posted for this week if/when we meet. Over the course of this coming week, I plan to work on some newly available safety measures and continue to monitor numbers and weather. I know that this may be inconvenient for some of you who have made plans based on camp being this coming week, and I'm really sorry for that, but as always the health and safety of everyone is my first priority.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Be Prepared for Band Camp!

Most importantly, you must follow all the procedures and regulations from my previous post that addresses the COVID-19 pandemic. Please review them and follow all of them. With Rookie Camp & VU reporting this week and everyone else the following week, I wanted to put up a post to remind you about "normal" precautions for Band Camp/band practices.

First, make sure you've eaten something healthy during the day before coming to practice. If you don't eat, you will get weak and/or nauseous. Your body is like a car, and food is the fuel. If your car runs out of gas, it stops, same with your body!

Second, even though we practice in the afternoon & early evening, it's going to be HOT. As a reminder, we aren't allowed to provide water buckets and cups, so please remember to bring your own water bottle. You must stay hydrated, and the heat and humidity will pull it out of you before you realize it. Avoid soft drinks with caffeine; drink water, Gatorade, or Powerade.

Third, please dress appropriately. Wear lightweight clothing, including shorts, t-shirts, TENNIS SHOES (no sandals or flip flops), sunglasses and hats. Wear sunscreen if you need it. Wear light colors, because dark colors attract light and make you feel hotter, light colors reflect light and make you feel cooler.

The three rules for Band Camp and every band practice are:
  1. EAT
  2. DRINK
  3. DRESS
We will meet at the practice field behind the school and leave from there at the end of practice, so no one needs to go to the band room this week. The practice field is behind the school on the opposite end from the stadium, beside the new tennis courts (same as last year). Parents who drop off are reminded to wait until your child has been screened before leaving, and asked to be prompt for pick up at the end. Rookies will not need their instrument Tuesday & Wednesday of this week for Rookie Camp, we will be concentrating on marching only. Because Eric won't be able to be with us this year, only percussion rookies will meet this week from 5p-7p, full percussion will not meet this week, but will begin Monday 7/27 with the full band.

While so much is going to be different this year, we'll try our best to do what we always do... MAKE IT WORK!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Band Camp Procedures & Regulations

We have developed a set of procedures and regulations for Band Camp based on recommendations from the CDC, the Georgia Music Educators Association, the National Federation of State High School Associations Music Committee, and the Georgia High School Association. Things will be quite different, but we’re going to make it work as best as we can.

Our number one priority is the health and safety of all students, parent chaperones, and staff. The following procedures and regulations are not up for debate and are non-negotiable. If anyone violates any of the procedures, we will immediately shut down Band Camp and cancel any remaining time.

  • If you are choosing to do the Virtual Program from home through CHS or CMS this semester, you can still be a part of the Marching Hornets and attend Band Camp, after-school practices, & performances. If you are being home schooled, you will not be able to participate in band this school year.
  • If you are showing any COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to anyone who is sick or has had a positive test within 14 days, you are NOT TO ATTEND PRACTICE. If you are unsure of the symptoms, please click here or go to the CDC website for the current list. If you can not attend practice, please contact us by email, Remind message, or Facebook message (no calls please, we need something in writing), and we will continue to hold your spot. If you are not having any symptoms and have not been exposed to anyone who is sick or with a positive COVID-19 test, please DO attend all rehearsals.
  • Due to state and GHSA regulations, we are limited to a maximum of 50 participants, so we are modifying the schedule and splitting up the group. All practices will be held at our practice field. We will be using the same field as last year, which is behind the school on the opposite end of the campus from the new stadium.
    • Week 1: Tuesday July 21st and Wednesday July 22nd Rookies & Officers 5p-7p
      Visual Unit 7p-9p
    • Week 2: Monday July 27th through Thursday July 30th Mon. 7/27: Woodwinds/VU 5p-7p, Brass/Percussion 7p-9p.
      Tue. 7/28: Brass & Percussion 5p-7p, Woodwinds/VU 7p-9p
      Wed. 7/29: Side 1 5p-7p, Side 2 7p-9p
      Thu. 7/20: Side 2 5p-7p, Side 1 7p-9p
    • SIDE 1 and SIDE 2 will be determined on Monday 7/27 & Tuesday 7/28 BRASS = trumpet, mellophone, trombone, baritone, tenor/bari sax, bass clarinet, and tuba. WOODWIND = flute, clarinet, alto sax, and mallets.
  • We will be entering the building as little as possible, so we will not be utilizing the instrument storage room in the band room. The only students allowed in the building will be those who play larger school-owned instruments such as tuba and percussion, and then only 2 students at a time. Other students will bring their instrument from home and take it back when we are done and not store it in the building. There is to be NO SHARING of any equipment at any time for any reason. 
  • Students should come directly to the practice field at the beginning of practice and leave directly from the practice field at the end. Students will be temperature screened upon arrival, and any student with a temperature of 100.4° or higher will not be allowed to stay at practice and will need to leave campus immediately. Parents who drop students off are required to wait until their child has been screened before leaving.
  • Masks will be required before practice, after practice, and during breaks, and must be worn properly by covering both your mouth and nose. Students will be placed on the field at 4 step intervals for rehearsal, and once you are in your rehearsal spot, you may remove your mask during practice time as long as you stay in your spot. 
  • You must keep a 6 foot distance from others at all times.
  • You must bring your own water bottle, as we are not allowed to provide water buckets and cups. Water fountains and drink/snack machines will be unplugged and off limits. 
  • We will have as much hand sanitizer available as possible, but you are encouraged to bring your own.
  • Do not arrive more than 10 minutes early to practice, and you must depart the campus within 10 minutes of the end of practice. We will end on time, so parents must be punctual for student pick up.
  • Students should use the restroom at home before coming to the school, as restrooms will be available ONLY for emergency needs, and no more than two students at a time while maintaining a distance of 6 feet.
  • In the event of rain, camp will be cancelled or immediately dismissed. Parents should stay aware of the weather, as well as being connected to us through Remind, Facebook, or Twitter for updates.

(Edited 7/20 to remove percussion from the "Week 1".)

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Brief Update on Band Camp & Officers

This is just a brief update regarding Band Camp and officers.

I told you in the last update that we may have to make modifications to the schedule, and that is definitely now the case. I have also put together a list of restrictions and guidelines that we will strictly follow for safety. I know that Band Camp is just over a week away, and I haven't yet posted the schedule & guidelines, but not only has the situation been fluid and developing over the last couple of weeks, but I also want to get administrator approval to assure that we are within state & local standards. I will follow up with a detailed post as soon as I get the go-ahead from administrators (hopefully tomorrow, Monday 7/13).

I have gone through all of the officer applications, and Mr. Fortner and I have gone through all of the Drum Major submissions, so that information is ready to be posted. I plan to make that info live tomorrow on the website's Awards & Officers page, and I will send out a Remind/Facebook/Twitter message when it is online.

Positive numbers appear to be growing rapidly in Cook County, so remember to keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash and sanitize your hands!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Band Camp and Other Info

Buckle up, because this is going to be long!

It's been a month or so since I've published a lengthy informational post, but I honestly haven't had any solid info that I could give you, so I haven't posted. This morning Dr. Dixon did a Facebook Live video on the Adel News' Facebook page, and if you haven't seen it, you should check it out. It has some information on when school will start and what it might look like. As for band, football, etc., he simply said to ask the directors/coaches, so I thought I should put up this post and let you know everything that I can. Just keep in mind that the theme of this post, along with most things school-related right now, is "I don't know," as situations tend to change daily and weekly. Let me say that, whatever school and band look like this year, the students' health and safety is my number one priority, so we're going to do everything we can to have marching band but in the safest possible way. That may mean that things look a little different at times. Just know that we may need to do things in the name of health and safety that could be perceived as being overboard, and I understand if there are some frustrations because of these, but I can't overstate how much I want everyone - students, parents, and instructors - to remain healthy during these difficult times.

The biggest question I get is, "Are we going to have Band Camp?" The answer today is YES, Band Camp will be as scheduled: July 20th-23rd for music/VU routines and 27th-30th for drill. Notice that I didn't say the first week would be inside and the second week outside, because that may no longer be the case. The Georgia Music Educator's Association has developed a six page document with guidelines for marching band, and one of their recommendations is that bands practice outside as much possible, continuing the social distancing of 6 feet apart between members (which works out to a 3-4 step interval in "marching band speak"). That may mean that we have to rehearse our music outdoors and spread apart. At this point, we may not even be able to have the entire band together at one time, as the maximum allowed per group is currently 50 people including instructors. I hope that we are at a point where that is relaxed by July 20th, and we can have the entire band together at the same time, but I don't know. If not, we would have to have staggered practices with smaller groups coming in on different days or different times. Right now we're going keep the same schedule until I see that we can't, and then we'll make some adjustments. I'll post more later about the specific modifications that we may have to make to have a safe band camp.

I've been asked several times about the officer list. That has to be done in conjunction with Drum Major tryouts, because Mr. Fortner and I need to decide who the Drum Major and Band Captains are before we can fully assign officers. Other demands have slowed down that process for us, but it hasn't been forgotten, and it will all be up very shortly.

I've also been asked numerous times about the show theme for this year. I'm ready to release that, but, before I do, let me give you a little info about how the show will look this year, as it will be different from the last few years.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions and hurdles that we will be working to overcome, I'm not planning to participate in any band competitions this Fall. At this point, I'm not even sure that there will BE any competitions to attend even if we wanted to. That means that we don't need a difficult "competition type" show. I am going to pare the number of songs down to three and write easier, linear drill with far fewer sets. If we have band students who get ill during the season and are forced to be out of school for two or more weeks, this music and type of drill will make it easier to fill in empty spots and allow the rest of the band to continue.

That's all for now, and I'll continue to update as information becomes available. Remember to keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash and sanitize your hands!

Click here to check out the slideshow and find out this year's show theme!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

VU Tryouts 2020

Updated Monday 5/25: The Google Classroom is now live with the instructions on how to begin the tryout process. Go to the front page of the website and click on the link at the top of the page (underneath the instrument pickup links).

We have set up a Google Classroom specifically for the 2020 Visual Unit online tryouts, and those who want to try out will have to join this Classroom. Inside there will be instructions to connect with Ms. Donna's Flipgrid account, where videos will be posted, including a flag and dance routine that you will be responsible for learning. These procedures will be for both returning members and new candidates. We realize that some of you do not have access to flags.  If you don't have a flag, you will use a broom, mop, or some other long straight pole to perform the flag routine. You will submit videos of yourself doing these routines through Flipgrid in the Google Classroom.  You will also be required to sign a permission slip / policy acknowledgement form and send it to Ms. Donna through the VU Classroom.

Codes and more info will be posted next week when everything is ready is to go.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Instrument Pick Up Instructions

YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PICK UP YOUR INSTRUMENT. If you don't need it and feel comfortable leaving it in the instrument room for the summer, you are welcome to.

Pick up times for instruments will be the same day and time as the pick up/drop off times for CHS.

9th Grade: 9:00a-10:30a
10th Grade: 10:30a-12:00p
11th Grade: 12:00p-1:30p
12th Grade: 1:30p-3:00p

Instruments will be behind the band room, inside the circle, and against the curb by the greenhouse. You can pull up, get your instrument, circle around, and go. As much as I want to see you all, it's not time yet! Please no socializing with me or other students/parents.

IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO PICK YOUR INSTRUMENT, YOU MUST FILL OUT THIS GOOGLE FORM. It gives me the information I need to get your instrument out of the storage room and outside for pick up. If you don't fill out the form, I'm going to assume you're not coming, and your instrument WILL NOT be outside.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Virtual Band Banquet!

We will have a virtual Band Banquet on Tuesday, May 19th, at 7p on Google Meet! I will send out a link on Remind and put it on Facebook and Twitter around 6:30p. You can join on your computer by clicking on the link, or on your phone/tablet by downloading the Google Meet app from the App Store.

We will be giving our yearly awards and sharing the Year End Video. Parents and students are welcome to join, and you don't even have to bring a side dish, drink, or dessert!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Instrument Pick Up Update

I know it's been a while since I posted an update, but I haven't had anything to report! Again, this is new to all of us, so we're having to figure it out as we go along.

I talked with Dr. McFee about instrument pick up, and he and the other administrators are putting together a schedule for school-wide pick up days. This will include any books, book bags, clothing, instruments, or any other item that students may have left in the building. More than likely it will be different days for different grades, but the procedures are not finished yet. Once the schedule is finalized, we will have instrument pick up during the same time. No one will be allowed in the building, so what will probably happen is that I will take your instrument out of the band room, set it on the sidewalk beside the greenhouse, and you can drive up and pick it up there.

Again, this is still tentative, so I'll post concrete details here when it's available.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Updates From This Week's Web Chats

It was great to see so many smiling faces during the web chats this week! If you couldn't attend, don't worry, we'll do it again in a couple of weeks. I was happy to see about 1/3 to 1/2 of the band students, and it was good to hear that so far everyone is healthy. I talked about some updated information during the web chats, so I am posting that info here for anyone who needs it.

Next Year's Show Theme - I know you're all excited to find out what our show theme will be for next year! I'm putting the finishing touches on that and putting it all together into a Google Slides PowerPoint-style presentation that I can share with you online. I'll try to have that up next week.
Instruments - If your instrument is in the Band Room (either CHS or CMS), Mr. Fortner & I will develop a mechanism for you to get those once the state's shelter-in-place order has been lifted. You'll be able to get those as soon as it's safely possible.
Marching Band Google Classroom - I have set up a Google Classroom for band. There is some music in there and more will be added later. (Next year's show music will be there when it's ready.) I'm posting the daily musical birthdays and music history, and cool web pages & videos that are music-related. If you haven't yet, please sign up for our Google Classroom so we can show that we are still doing something educational during this downtime. The code is: a7wlpjp. There is no work that you will have to complete, and nothing will be graded.
● Drum Major Tryouts - Mr. Fortner is heading up the Drum Major tryouts. If you want to participate, you should be a current freshman, sophomore, or junior, and you should be in the Drum Major Tryout Google Classroom. Mr. Fortner is posting both leadership and conducting information that you will need in order to tryout for next's year's Drum Major position. The code for the Google Classroom is: jmqrgw5.
Officer Applications - Those who want to apply for an officer position for next year should be a current freshman, sophomore, or junior, and may do so by filling out the online Google Form. The link to the Officer Application is here:
Visual Unit Tryouts - Miss Donna and I are still working out our options for Visual Unit for next year, and, once we've figured out what we're going to do, I will post info here and send it out on Remind/Facebook/Twitter.
Awards & Banquet - We normally vote on paper ballets each year, but I will convert that to a Google Form, and students will be able to vote online. The ballot will be ready in the next couple of weeks, and I will send out a link on Remind/Facebook/Twitter and put a link on the main page of the website. We still want to have a Band Banquet at some point, and we will schedule that when it's safe to do so.
Band Camp/Band Practice Schedule - Obviously there is still a lot of unknown variables with COVID-19, but I have put the dates and time for Band Camp on the website calendar (assuming that we start school as scheduled). We will have Indoor Music Band Camp Monday through Thursday, July 20th-23rd, 5p-9p in the Band Room. We will have Outdoor Drill Band Camp Monday through Thursday, July 27th-30th, 5p-9p on the practice field. The first day of school is scheduled for Wednesday, August 5th. I'm not sure where we'll be practicing once school starts, so I can't set our normal band practice time until that's been decided. Hopefully I will have the information I need to set that soon.
Stadium - According to Coach Edwards, the current completion date of the new stadium is May 4th. That means that it will definitely be ready for the coming football season, and maybe even graduation. Dr. Dixon has stated that he wants to have a graduation ceremony for the seniors at some point, and I don't see why that can't be in the new stadium if it's ready!

As always, wash & sanitize those hands, don't touch your face, stay home if you can, and stay six feet or more away from people when you can't. I want everyone to be safe, and I can't wait to see you all again in person. I'm ready to get back to making some music!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Thoughts to the Seniors...

I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about the Seniors, and everything that they're missing out on this Spring. As I frequently do, I try to make the best of a bad situation, and that got me thinking about all the things that they GOT to do! Not all of them got to do all of these activities, but it's a pretty fun list!

8th Grade - 2015/2016:

  • Ladies of the '80s show - Hit Me With Your Best Shot / Alone / Mickey / 99 Red Balloons. This one is still some people's favorite.
  • While we spent most of football season in bibbers and band t-shirts, this year's group was the first to wear the new uniforms!
  • Straight 1s at the Coffee Invitational Marching Festival.
  • A wrestling event with the nationally-known Ron Simmons from WCW.
  • The Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade.

9th Grade - 2016/2017:

  • Feelin' Caribbean show - Jump In The Line / D'yer Ma'ker / Hot Hot Hot / Three Little Birds-Jump In The Line.
  • Hardee's Band Night, where we lined up in the parking lot and played for over an hour.
  • The Halloween Carnival and the Haunted Trail.
  • Orlando Spring Trip - two days at Disney World and a performance with a Disney musician! We provided the audio for a scene from Tangled.
  • Performance at the Georgia Firebirds/Dayton Wolfpack National Arena League game. The first marching band to ever perform at an NAL game!

10th Grade - 2017/2018:

  • Hee Haw show - Deulin' Banjos / Pfft You Were Gone / Elvira / Gloom Dispair & Agony on Me / Jolene-Elvira Tag. "What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear!"
  • The first Halloween dress-up band practice.
  • The percussion attempting to play with Newsong at the concert in Tifton. Unfortunately the *professional* drummer missed his cue, and we had to perform at the end of break by ourselves.
  • Brass Choir performing at Redland Baptist Church's Christmas Program in Valdosta.
  • The first Spring Game.

11th Grade - 2018/2019:

  • Salute to the American Auto Industry show - Detroit Rock City-Drive My Car-On The Road Again / Mustang Sally-Hot Rod Lincoln-Little Red Corvette / Car Wash-Fun Fun Fun / Who's Gonna Drive You Home-Life Is A Highway.
  • Heat Wave Drum & Bugle Corp staying at our school and practicing on our practice field.
  • First Back-to-School Celebration performance in the middle of Band Camp for all the teachers, administrators, and staff of the Cook School System.
  • A '57 Thunderbird in our halftime show!
  • Two days at Universal Studios, and a performance at the Orlando Apollos game. We get to go on the field... wait, no we don't. But we got to see Frisbee Dog! And the official Macarena arrangement, as heard on the NFL Network!

12th Grade - 2019/2020:

  • Soul Train show - Get Ready-September / Soul Man / Bad Mamma Jamma-Brick House / Midnight Train To Georgia-September Tag.
  • The second Back-to-School Celebration performance.
  • We were everybody's homecoming game.
  • Another Halloween dress-up band practice.
  • A superior at Concert Band Festival.

In addition, in five seasons of Hornet Football, the Seniors never had a year without playoffs. Not a bad list! And this is just the band-related activities, most of them participated in other school activities and have memories with those groups.

So Seniors, when you remember your time in high school, try not to focus on this time that you lost, but all the time that you had.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Unthinkable & Unbelievable

Yesterday, 4/1, Governor Brian Kemp declared that all Georgia schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year. He said that he made his decision based on new information that COVID-19 can be spread by those who are showing no symptoms, and he felt that this is the best course of action.

While I've suspected that this could happen, it still came as a shock to me. In all the years I've been teaching, I sometimes think I've seen it all, but this is unprecedented. I wish I had answers to all of your questions, but the truth is I have no idea what happens now. I wish I could say something to make sense of all of this, but I'm simply at a loss. My heart aches for all of the students who've lost a quarter of their school year. You have no idea how much I miss all of you, and how much I miss just having band with you every day. Most of all I hurt for the Seniors. Their Senior year, and there's no Spring Trip, no Spring Concert, no Band Banquet. I've been told that there WILL be a graduation ceremony at some point when the social distancing and shelter-in-place orders are lifted, but there is not even a guess right now as to when that could be. Most health experts are saying that we haven't reached the top of the curve yet, so we can't project when life might start returning to normal until we're on the back side of this. "I don't know" is not a good answer, but it's all we've got to most questions right now.

I had a video chat earlier this week with Erik, Mr. Fortner, and Miss Donna, and we talked about options for things that we had planned and things that we normally do in the Spring. I can tell you that Erik has decided to cancel both the Jekyll Island trip and the Troy Summer Percussion Camp. No money has been paid for Jekyll Island, and no money has been sent to Troy, so everything students paid will be rolled into their band accounts for next Fall. The four of us talked about the options if we didn't return to school this semester, so we have some preliminary ideas on what directions we will go with officers, auxiliaries, drum major, and awards, but right now most things are not finalized and can't be announced. The easiest to handle is the Officer Application for next year. Soon I will convert the paper application into a Google Forms document, and those of you who want to apply will be able to fill that out online. Mr. Fortner is going to be heading up the Drum Major tryouts, and he and I will be figuring out how we can best conduct those online. Miss Donna has looked at some options for Visual Unit, and we'll be making some final decisions on how we can handle that as well. I'm going to create a Google Docs form to allow students to vote on the yearly awards online instead of on paper, I'll still make the Year End Video, and we will still announce award winners before the end of May. Again, this all uncharted waters for us, so we're having to figure it out as we go along, and details may change as we try to navigate. I also plan to schedule some Google Meet group video chats over the next few weeks so we can hang out and talk through anything you might have questions over. I don't think we can get the whole band on at one time, so we'll do them by grade or section.

I know you all miss band, so I've revived our Marching Band Google Classroom so that we can interact. It has a few pieces of marching music (along with recordings) that you can practice on, and I'll be adding more as time goes by. You know how I like quirky music-related stuff, so there's some interesting articles, YouTube videos, and a message from Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser. Because I know you miss them so much, I'm also going to post our daily Musician Birthdays and Music History! April 1st and 2nd are already online, and I'll post a new one each day. To join, log into with your school email address and password, and join the Marching Band class with the code a7wlpjp.

I miss you all more than you know! PLEASE stay home and wash/sanitize your hands. COVID-19 is no joke, so take all precautions. The most important thing right now is that you and your family stay safe!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Conversation with Coach Gibson

I just had a good conversation with Coach Jason Gibson of the Columbus Lions. I told him that school continues to be closed until April 27th, so there is no way that we could participate in the game. As I suspected, he says that the National Arena League is postponing the start of their season, and they're discussing not beginning until June. If that happens, their season would go into July & August, and I told him that we might be interested in participating at that point, depending on a lot of factors. If not this year, maybe next year. I asked him to keep us in mind, and he said that he definitely would.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Instrument Update

Just a short message to let you know that I heard back from Dr. McFee about instruments that are still in the school building. He asked that you please remain patient, and that we continue to keep the building locked down.

Friday, March 27, 2020

School Update

This a brief message to update you on the current situation after yesterday's announcement.

As I'm sure you're aware, Governor Brian Kemp held a press conference yesterday (3/26) and extended the school closure until Friday, April 24th. Under this plan we would resume classes on Monday, April 27th, have 4 weeks of school, and have graduation on Friday May 22nd. As of now there's been no discussion of make-up days or extending the school year.

A few of you whose instrument is the Band Room have asked about getting it out. As far as I know the building is still under lock down, so no one is allowed in for any reason. I have sent Dr. McFee an e-mail and asked about this situation and what we can do, but I have not as yet heard back from him.

Infections continue to rise, so PLEASE practice social distancing/self-quarantining,  wash & sanitize your hands as often as possible, and keep from touching your face as much as possible. COVID-19 is highly contagious, so take all precautions.

We miss you and we're thinking about you every day!

Friday, March 20, 2020

School Update

I know that this an "interesting" time to say the least - something like I've never seen before - but I wanted to give you an update on school and band.

On Friday 3/13, the Cook Board of Education decided to close school for two weeks, Monday 3/16 through Friday 3/27. On Tuesday of this week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp mandated that schools close for two weeks through Tuesday 3/31, which would add two additional days to the Cook Board closures. That means that, if all goes according to schedule, we would return to school on Wednesday, April 1st. I was told before we dismissed that we will still have Spring Break as scheduled Monday through Friday 4/6 to 4/10, and I've not heard anything different as of now. I realize that means that we would go back for three days of school and then take another week out, but that's the current plan. (You can see these dates on the website calendar.) There's also a distinct possibility that we would remain closed for those three days and return after Spring Break, but that's just speculation right now.

Should this school closure continue beyond Spring Break, I feel sure that we'll have to do online classes/lessons. For those of you in 2nd & 4th block band classes, I have no idea right now how this will work for us, but I'm looking at some options, and we'll figure it out together.

I know that many of you have your instrument in the instrument room at the high school, and some of you want to get your horn. Unfortunately we were told when we left the building on Friday 3/13 that no one was allowed under any circumstances to return for two weeks. We are still not 100% sure at this time how long COVID-19 can live on surfaces, so the intention is to let any and all traces of the virus that might be in the building to clear. If/when we're allowed back in and I can let you retrieve your instrument, then I will send out a Remind message.

Lastly, we hope that you and your family are and remain safe. Please try to stay at home as much possible. This virus is extremely contagious, so social distancing combined with frequent hand washing/sanitizing is essential. Apparently young people are at a lower risk for a serious case of the virus (and health officials say that this may not be completely accurate), but if you catch it, you can quickly spread it to others that are higher risk without even realizing it. Please take all precautions!

I miss you all, and I can't wait to get back to having nothing more to worry about than the right key signature! :-)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Spring Trip Update

As I'm sure many of you are already aware, after meeting with parents on Thursday evening March 12th, we have decided that it would be in everyone's best interest not to go forward with this year's Spring Trip. Let me first say that NO ONE WILL LOSE ANY MONEY. The tour company was gracious enough to let me delay the first payment to them until we made a final decision, so no money has left Cook High School. I talked with Student Group Tours this morning, and they were able to cancel everything without a financial penalty. If you have paid for this trip, keep reading for your options.

I know that this is very disappointing for the students, ESPECIALLY the seniors, but we took all factors into consideration before making this serious decision. There are a LOT of unknown variables right now, but we can't wait to see how things play out in the next four weeks. We had to make a decision now about whether or not to go forward. These are the main points that we discussed:

● I don't want anyone to lose any money. If we decided to go forward with the trip, I would have needed to send the first payment to Student Group Tours today. If the COVID-19 outbreak gets worse, and we decide later that we don't want to go, some or all of that money would have been non-refundable. I try to be prudent with band expenses, and for some of us (me included!) every penny is important. I'm not okay losing even a few dollars.
● I don't take the health and safety of my students lightly. Most health officials right now are saying that young people are at less risk, and that, if they do catch it, it would be a very mild case. Even still, I don't want to expose my students to anything that might make them not only sick (even mildly), but also very contagious. Sick students could bring the virus back to parents, grandparents, etc. Students in close quarters like a hotel room or a school bus would almost ensure that if one got it, many or all would have it before we got home.
● There may not be anywhere to go. Shortly before the meeting Disneyland in California announced that it was closing until at least the end of March, and late last night Disney World and Universal Orlando followed suit. While Six Flags has not made an announcement as of now, I'm sure they will be closing for some length of time as well. All major sporting events in the country have been canceled or suspended, including the NBA, MLS, College Basketball's March Madness, the XFL, the PGA and the LPGA. Most importantly Major League Baseball canceled all of Spring Training and announced that the start of the season would be postponed at least two weeks. That means that we might not even have a Braves game to go to on April 18th. The National Arena League season doesn't start for another 3 weeks, so they don't have to make a statement yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a Columbus Lions game for us to play at on April 17th.

After serious discussion, you can see why we came to the decision that we did. There are a large number of unknowns that not even health professionals can agree on right now. There's a chance that COVID-19 might have run it's course by mid-April, and everything is back to normal, but I'm not willing to bet parents' money or students' health on it. Does that mean that we aren't doing anything this Spring? No, but I can't make any sort of future plans right now until I see what happens over the next few days/weeks/months.


Again, no money has left Cook High School, so if you paid either cash, check, or on, you have three options:

#1 - APPLY IT TO THIS YEAR'S UNIFORM FEE OR VISUAL UNIT UNIFORM. A large number of students have not yet paid their $100 uniform fee and some Visual Unit members have not paid for this year's uniform. This trip money can be applied to uniform debt.
#2 - MOVE IT TO STUDENTS' BAND ACCOUNTS. If the uniform fee or VU uniform is paid, I can move this money over to the students' Band Account, and it will be there going forward. Student Band Accounts roll over year-to-year and follow them until they graduate, so it can be used for any band expenses this Spring or next school year.
#3 - REQUEST A REFUND. If students don't have a band debt and you would like this money back, please e-mail a formal request to I will fill out the required form, attach a printout of your request, submit it to the school bookkeeper, and she will cut you a check. We have been notified that the school system will be shut down until March 27th, so any refunds will be processed after we return.

Some of you may be able to do more than one of these things, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to e-mail me. Please notice that I listed my school e-mail above (instead of my e-mail address) so that I can have an official record of whatever we discuss and you decide to do.

Again, I am very saddened to have to cancel this trip, I know it would have been a great experience for the students. I am in hopes that this health crisis can be resolved quickly, and that there are some opportunities for us before we reach the end of the school year.

Neff Jacket Rep & Practices

NEFF JACKET REP : A reminder that Mike Faulkner, the Neff Jacket representative, will be in the Band Room on Tuesday August 18th from 3:30p-...