The Pride of the South marching band, which many consider an integral part of the Ole Miss football experience, is facing challenges head-on amid uncertainties and ongoing changes in guidelines.
SEC guidelines currently state that on-field band performances before games and during halftime are prohibited, according to an announcement made on Friday. The Pride of the South can still play in stadium seats but with fewer band members than usual and social distancing protocols enforced. The band can no longer travel to away games either — leaving only five home games for them to play.
“To be so publicly ingrained into game-day, we don’t want to miss out on one thing,” Athletic Bands Director Randy Dale said. “We’re going to take whatever’s available and do the best we can.”
Since the delayed start of the season, the band has faced some challenges of its own while still trying to incorporate consistency. Along with the news of no on-field performances, the entire band has split into two groups, and practice times have been shortened to only two one-hour practices per week. The reason for the separation, according to Dale, was because they did not feel comfortable having 300 or so students coming and going at once.
“Every now and then, I’ll come to the other band’s practice, and I’ll watch them and speak to them from a distance,” bass drummer Michael Ivy said. “I mean it absolutely hurt my feelings because all of my friends are in the first band while I’m in the second band.”
The Daily Mississippian sat in on a recent band practice where the band rehearsed their pregame show. When asked if they would be prepared for the season, Dale said the answer was hard to find since pregame shows had not yet been strictly prohibited by the SEC.
“If all we are going to be doing is playing from the stands, then that is something that we’ll take time to work on, but less time,” Dale said. “And so, as long as I find that out fairly soon, we can get (prepared) for that.”
Band camp, an important part of building a community within the band, was cut to five days. On two of the days, not a single note was played, and one day was dedicated to community service. Band members volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Oxford, took cookies to first responders, sorted through clothes at the pregnancy center, made cards for children at the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson and even took part in cleaning up the campus after move-in day.
“We thought, you know, if we’ve got some time, why not give some of that time back?” Dale said. “We were already here. We weren’t ready, but we just felt like we could give a day to do that.”
Spirits are still high, though, as the band is trying to navigate changes. Members said they are excited for this season and dedicated to salvaging their only chances of performing in the stadium.
“We wish we could all be together, but we need to do this so that we can be together in some way possible,” drum major Catherine Adams said. “People have been really supportive and mindful of the implementations that we’ve put in.”
As far as what the band will look like in Vaught-Hemingway this year, each band will rotate performing during scheduled home games and will spread out across forty to forty-five rows, top to bottom.
“It will look very socially distanced,” Dale said. As of now, each band has two games on its schedule. The Egg Bowl is to be determined.
“I’m so excited just to get back to something normal,” trombone player Wade Chapman said. “I mean, it’s the new normal, but I’m excited just to get back in Vaught-Hemingway and to see Coach Kiffin and the team and play for them in front of some fans.”