COLUMBUS, OH (WOWK) – There won’t be any officially sanctioned marching band competitions in Ohio this fall as schools and activities continue to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19.

In a letter to marching band directors across Ohio today, the Ohio Music Educators Association said it would not be able to sanction competitive events and also canceled the state level competitions which wrap up the competitive season.

Dawson-Bryant High School in Coal Grove, Ohio performing in Fall of 2019

In an email to 13 News, the OMEA Marching Band Affairs Chair, JD Latorre explained the following:

  • This decision means there will be no sanctioned Local Events in 2020 (66 were scheduled), and State Marching Band Finals (four days) has been cancelled.
  • This decision does not prevent a band from practicing and/or performing for football or other local events, should they be happening this fall.
  • Last year 218 different schools performed at OMEA Local Events
  • 131 bands qualified and performed at OMEA State Marching Band Finals in 2019

Thomas Zerkle, director of the Dawson-Bryant High School Band in Coal Grove, Ohio says he’s sad for his students.

“I’m really disappointed, especially for my kids. But I understand the difficult decision that had to be made. I’m glad that our organization put the safety of students, parents and staff ahead of anything else. We will be doing a small halftime show for any football games we may have. Just to give our kids a marching band experience. My focus will be giving my students the best possible music education I can under the circumstances. And preparing them for the future when we come back stronger and better than ever,” said Zerkle.

A recently released study by the NFHS about marching band and aerosolized particles from playing instruments indicates that there are still ways for band to perform, but under some very stringent guidelines.  The current guidelines allow for socially distanced spacing on the field and it is recommended that pods of the same 10 students work together in practices.  Many school systems have already said they are not allowing their bands to travel to away football games on Friday nights. This severely limits the activity and challenges instructors.

Recently the WVSSAC canceled all band camps across West Virginia but the guidelines do allow practices in the pods of 10 for up to three hours a day. There is no word yet in West Virginia whether weekend contests will be canceled.

A committee in Kentucky of the KMEA recently voted to cancel the state marching band contest but that motion is awaiting final approval and there could also be elimination of weekend contests especially in light of new state restrictions limiting the size of gatherings.

Also the Bands of America championships were also cancelled for the 2020 season Tuesday by the Music for All organization that puts on the contests. Some local high school bands were slated to perform in Indianapolis this November in the Grand Nationals event including Cabell Midland, Chesapeake, OH, Russell, KY and South Point, OH.

In Ohio, bands will still be allowed to submit a video recording of any performance they would like to have evaluated by judges, although there will be no rating assigned.