In normal years, the Pride of Arizona, the University of Arizona's official marching band, would be preparing for a Saturday night performance under the lights in front of over 50,000 fans at Arizona Stadium. This, of course, is no normal circumstance as the postponement of fall sports has given the Pride of Arizona a new set of goals.
“Our next plan is to … kind of bring a little spirit to campus because it’s been a little bit of a dark fall without sports and some other big activities,” band director Chad Shoopman said. “Having the marching band there and being able to play ‘Bear Down’ with recordings of us … as just a way to show our spirit, bring a little normal back and lift everyone’s spirits as well.”
The Pride of Arizona has been grinding away to get ready for the in-person phase of practice as they hope to be fully ready to bring some uplifting energy to the Tucson community.
“We can show all these different people, this huge diverse group of students — from cultural differences to differences in how we see the world to what we study — all coming together in this moment of unity to perform and to bring the community together,” Shoopman said. “It’s something we are all desperate to get back to.”
The Pride of Arizona would typically prepare for their performances by enduring “many preseason activities and a big week of band camp that has 14-hour days,” Shoopman said. But those plans have had no choice but to switch virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the virtual practices didn’t end at band camp for the Pride of Arizona. Many of the members have conducted Zoom practices every day since school has started. One member plays unmuted, while the rest play along muted to give off some sense of playing with each other. The band has also taken advantage of a music app that grades the pitch and tone of their music.
The Pride of Arizona will be able to maintain a safe, social distance from each other when playing since they will be outside in a huge area. Although they won’t be able to perform moving formations, the band will still be able to design new spaces and create several different frames.
The Pride of Arizona has also had to get creative with their wind instruments since playing the saxophone doesn’t exactly work with your everyday masks. So instead, wind players will be using “bell-shaped masks” that include multiple layers, allowing members to safely play their instrument while protecting the people around them.
“It really is a unique challenge for us because we like to be together and we are happy when everyone is doing their thing,” Shoopman said. “There is nothing like 250 people on the field in front of 55,000 people drumming, dancing, performing, having that moment when we are unified and that’s an important word right now in our society.”
Senior Arizona Pom Line captain Samantha Moreno said, “I can speak for everyone that we are excited to be back together and doing what we love safely … to see each other’s faces, because it’s just a different environment on the camera than when you see someone in person. Even if we can’t hug each other, it’s just being around the people you love is really exciting and it’s something to look forward to every day.”
Bass drum section leader Kiara Garrett said, “I am super excited and hopeful because seeing everyone on Zoom every week has just made me want to go back more and more and I feel really comfortable with the safety regulations we are taking to be able to be back in person.”
It’s always refreshing to hear that the Pride of Arizona has been able to keep their hopes up throughout these difficult times, all while also focusing on the safety of all their members. This certainly has to do with the spirit and leadership of Moreno, Garrett and Shoopman. It is easy to not want to work as hard and to lose passion and excitement while online, but the Pride of Arizona is reminding the Wildcats to “Bear Down” and stay patient.
After all, Gwen Stefani once said that she “walked around the house … wondering if I was in a dream” after hearing the Pride of Arizona, so it’s a sure thing that, in no time, the Wildcats will feel the same way with the future performances of the Pride of Arizona.
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