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Hope on the horizon for the Picayune band

Under normal circumstances the Picayune Maroon Tide Band would be working on concert evaluations and preparing for the end of the year, but the closure of schools because of COVID-19 threw a wrench in those plans.

However, instead of worrying about the past, high school Band Director John Cockrell, middle school Band Director Ellen Moore and president of the band booster club Cheryl Espino are looking to the future.

Both the high school and middle school programs are preparing for the summer just like they would any other year.

Props are being built, the halftime show is being developed and the directors are excited to see what the summer brings.

“We’re still operating on status quo for once they open the doors because we have to do it that way. If we don’t develop the show, then get the green light (from the school) and we’re not prepared that’s not good,” Cockrell said.

While preparing for the hopeful return to normalcy Cockrell, Espino and Moore have not forgotten about the seniors.

A banquet and other honors usually await seniors in the band program after their final year and Cockrell said those things will hopefully take place when more restrictions are lifted. Each year, Cockrell gifts graduating seniors who have spent 14 semesters in the band program with custom made batons.

“That isn’t a purchase though the school, that’s something I do for the kids. They’ve seen this happening since sixth, seventh grade and had been looking forward to their spotlight. We’re trying to get back to normal for the sake of the kids,” Cockrell said.

The band programs have been operating under the impression that the summer will hold the same number of opportunities as a normal summer would.

Cockrell said the plan is, if June 1 holds as the first day activities are allowed to resume, to start with auditions for captains and drum majors.

Instrument maintenance will also take place while preparing for band camp, which usually takes place in July.

Cockrell said if restrictions are lifted and safety is prioritized there will still be a band camp.

“We’re still planning on having band camp. We’ve had a few parents ask, but unless we’re told (we’re not allowed to we will) because we have to have band camp to put on the show,” Cockrell said.

Even with all the uncertainty surrounding the future Cockrell said the best is yet to come for his program.

“We haven’t dialed anything back yet. If we’re allowed to we want the show to be bigger and better than before. I think the kids need that and need some normalcy,” Cockrell said.

Directors of the Pearl River County and Poplarville school district band programs weren’t available for comment prior to press time.