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Picayune band continues progress with each performance

The Picayune Maroon Tide band has only been able to perform twice this year, but Band Director John Cockrell said the musicians are building off of each show and improving with every passing day.

Even though the football team has had three games this year, the band only performed at two of them.

That is due to the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s COVID-19 guidelines, which state bands aren’t allowed to travel with football teams to away games.

This means the band has had to make due with just performing at home contests, but even after just two shows Cockrell is seeing progress.

“The music got better, the marching got better. The routines got better for the flag and dance teams. The show was smoother overall,” Cockrell said.

The musicians have also had to adjust to now spending Friday nights in a separate set of bleachers in the end zone.

The arrangement means there is more space between the band and fans, but Cockrell said the new set up allows the band to be more particular about when they decide to play.

“We like it because we get to now choose the direction of our sound. We can either shoot sound towards our side, or shoot sound towards the actual football team in extreme defense situations,” Cockrell said.

The new location is temporary, another COVID-19 protocol, but Cockrell said he wouldn’t be opposed to the change being made permanent if some permanent bleachers were installed for future seasons.

On top of the new pandemic restrictions, inclement weather compounded the practice time crunch the band has to deal with.

Extreme heat and rainy weather can prevent the band from practicing outside, which means less time is spent on the marching aspect of the halftime show.

Those issues, along with a shorter band camp, have made this year anything but normal for the band.

However, Cockrell said the younger musicians understand this year’s routines have been altered and are looking forward to the future when things are a little more like they used to be.

“I think the younger students know this is not the norm, so they know that a bright future awaits for them. The older students do talk about away games and contests, so they do hear them talking about that. (Plus) a lot of freshmen were band managers last year that would travel with us,” Cockrell said.

There are still plans in place to have the band perform in a competitive environment in front of judges, which will take place in late October.

Judges will come to Picayune Memorial High School to judge the band’s full show, but without the presence of other bands.

The competition will allow the Maroon Tide to not only show younger musicians what a competition environment is like, but also give seniors a final chance to perform on the field.

The band’s next performance will be this Friday during the halftime intermission of the football game.