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‘There in spirit’: Husky Marching Band staying positive despite not playing in 2020

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The Husky Marching Band performs at halftime of Washington's matchup with Stanford.

Hayden Gizinski wasn’t particularly surprised when she heard the Husky Marching Band wouldn’t be playing this year. In fact, she’d been expecting it. 

“I love band, and it’s a huge part of my life,” she said. “Missing out on all of the experiences that come with the fall season is a disappointment. At the same time though, I think the right decision was made, given that we are still in the middle of a pandemic and the risk would be relatively high.”

Gizinski, the piccolo co-section leader and a junior at the UW, is one of the many members of the Husky Marching Band who won’t be able to play after the Sep. 25 announcement from representatives of the Pac-12 schools that no bands would be permitted to attend football games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For Dr. Brad McDavid, who is entering his 27th year as director of athletic bands at the UW, the worst part was telling his seniors they wouldn’t get a final season. 

“I am blessed with the opportunity to get to know the students on a much deeper level than most instructors on campus,” he said. “That’s what I’ll miss, is having one less year with our seniors and one less year to build a relationship with our newest rookie members.”

Don Sabo, a field assistant for the Husky Marching Band, has been with the program for 50 years. He’s seen the group miss shows due to poor conditions, and was with the band when a bus accident prevented them from playing in 2018. But this is the first season in his memory that the program hasn’t played for an entire season. 

However, playing at games isn’t the only part of the marching band experience that’s been derailed by the pandemic. During a normal year, practices take up at least 10 hours of the week and create a tight-knit camaraderie, something Gizinski, Sabo, and drum major Denali Cornwellbelieve will be one of the most missed parts of the season. 

“The Husky Marching Band means so much to me as a family, community, support system, and creative outlet,” Cornwell said. “Showing up to rehearsals every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday means for a few hours being able to forget the stress of school, socialize with friends, and relentlessly sharpen my skills and routines for the next performance.” 

Despite the current situation, though, the band continues to try and foster the kind of relationships they’d get to build in normal circumstances. 

McDavid said the senior and student leadership still meets with the freshmen over Zoom to teach them the music and marching style that make the Husky Marching Band famous, and he hopes the group will get permission in the spring to perform at other UW Athletics events, like basketball, volleyball, or softball games. They also want to make their annual appearance at the Windermere Cup to support the rowing team.  

And while the raucous versions of “Tequila,” “Neck,” “Polynesian Paralysis,” and “Bow Down to Washington” won’t echo around the stadium live when Washington takes the field next, the Husky Marching Band’s presence won’t be completely absent from Husky Stadium. 

“Each band member submitted a picture for a stadium cut-out,” McDavid said. “So we’ll still be there in spirit as an entire band.”

Reach Sports Editor Andy Yamashita at Twitter: @ANYamashita

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