In January of 2020 we began to hear news of the novel coronavirus that was taking China and Europe by storm. The band program had just received straight superior ratings at all district MPA events that year and had been preparing for, what looked to be, one of their more successful ventures into the State MPA when schools and events across the country were put on hold to deal with the newly declared COVID-19 Pandemic. For the first time since the US's entry into World War II, the FBA State level events had been cancelled along with nearly all other music related events. It was during Spring Break that band members were notified that schools would not be reopening, and students would finish out the year virtually. Despite these disappointments and setbacks, the Forest HS Band was able to put out several virtual performances via the internet. These performances were recorded individually at home and then mixed to create a virtual ensemble performance.
The 2020 school year opened with a delayed start as new guidelines were created to allow activities, including performing arts, to continue during the pandemic. While many school districts across the nation banned live performances and music rehearsals altogether for the school year, Marion County administrators and band directors worked closely with available information to design protocols that still allowed for music performances in schools. With specially designed musician masks, bell covers, modified rehearsal times and locations, the FHS band was able to continue to rehearse and perform that year.
In acknowledgement of civil and social unrest during that summer and the trepidatious atmosphere of the school at the beginning of the year, a show theme of “Come Together” was chosen to open the new decade at the school. This show reflected themes of unity while celebrating our differences as individuals. The show consisted of the songs Come Together by the Beatles, This is Me from the Greatest Showman, and Black or White by Michael Jackson. The Wildcat Band performed this show at the home football games (away games were not allowed) and the Optimist Marching Festival, the only off campus performance of the season.
The band program opted to perform for that year’s virtual MPA’s (both Concert and Jazz) despite the decision to award no ratings for the school year. The concert band was split into two ensembles based on experience level, to comply with rehearsal restrictions, and both groups performed for the virtual concert MPA. Several students continued to perform for Solo and Ensemble at both the district and the state level. Separate concerts were help for the concert band, jazz band, and percussion ensembles that year. The Band closed out the school year with an awards picnic at Cohadjoe Park in Ocala as well as performing for graduation, held for the first time at the newly constructed World Equestrian Centre.