Wildcat Band director Daniel J. Farris with band members (and roommates, which is why they are not socially distancing) Ethan Reiss and Katie Daehler. Photo by E. Jason Wambsgans for the Chicago Tribune.

“The big show on game day is just part — and perhaps not even the most important part — of what the young musicians love about being in marching band,” writes Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune. Howard's interview with Northwestern University “Wildcat” Marching Band members and their director, Daniel J. Farris, appear in the Friday edition.

Even as the Wildcat band is sidelined this season due to the global pandemic, along with all Big Ten bands, the band members are finding ways to find something familiar in a completely unfamiliar time.

“What marching bands I think do best is establish some sort of sense of community with students,” Farris says in the article.

Upon that community, familiar traditions are built that span generations of band members.

“What do I miss about marching band? What don’t I miss? I miss everything,” says Drum Major Ethan Reiss in the story.

“Well, I don’t miss waking up at 4:30 a.m. for morning kickoff. But I miss rehearsals. I miss getting to march pregame shows” he continues. “There’s no feeling like running out of the tunnel and seeing 40,000 people.”

Reiss has a busy class schedule, studying both political science and history.

“We provide an outlet for them outside of their regular academic schedule. We try to maintain that connection, which develops into lifelong friendships and connections, which many times continue into the professional world.” Farris says in the article.

The Tribune's Howard also spoke with cymbal player Katie Daehler. “If there is one thing I miss most, it’s probably just the energy that comes from being together,” says the economics and sociology student, who is in her final year of studies at Northwestern. “I miss that sense of collective energy.”

Howard writes, “So band directors and students have found other ways to stay connected online. They share information, do health checks, work on stretching exercises. Sometimes one musician will play solo, and the others will try to play along, with their microphones muted. Or they’ll give each other assignments to practice particular songs at home.”

Daehler says in the story that what exactly the students do online “kind of changes every week, every session ... The biggest focus is trying to keep the traditions and the community going on. That’s taken a few different forms.”

For Reiss, this keys into the reason students join the ensemble. “People join NU marching band for a lot of reasons, whether for marching or the music. But one of the things that keeps people in the organization is the sense of community and friendship that we all have together. Whether it’s having sectional time, where people can hang out with people who play the same instrument. Or breakouts for people with the same majors, to give academic advice,” he says in the article.

Howard's story includes more details from Wildcat Band members Reiss and Daehlers, as well as comments from University of Illinois marching band director Barry L. Houser and Illinois band students.

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