While the sidelines will seem bare and the field will seem silent during halftime at Texas A&M football games, the Aggie Band and Yell Leader team are finding new ways to keep the spirit this fall.
Since the SEC announced restrictions for on-field personnel on Aug. 28, the Aggie Band, now unable to perform a live half-time show, has decided to pre-record their drill and display it on the video screens during their usual performance slot.
Band director Timothy Rhea said the band made this back-up plan in early August while considering potential situations for the fall.
“I understand this is a decision from the SEC, but am disappointed for the members and supporters of the Aggie Band as well as the other bands in the SEC,” Rhea said. “The current Aggie Band has handled the many adjustments to our fall procedures in the same manner as they approach all things — dedication, excellence and enduring pride in all that we do.”
The half-time performance will be virtual, though band commander Ross Beazley said the Aggie Band will continue performing in the stands with added safety precautions like social distancing and specialized band facemasks.
“I know the safety of the students, players, coaches, faculty and everything is the most important thing so it’s hard to speculate what exactly is going to happen, but we’re going to maintain an optimistic point of view,” Beazley said. “Whatever happens will happen and we’ll take the punches and roll with it, and the Aggie Band will continue to march on until we’re told we’re not able to anymore. Even if football season is canceled, as long as the Corps is alive and the Aggie Band is alive, we’re going to march on as long as we can.”
In addition to restrictions on band performances, the Yell Leaders will not be allowed on the sidelines this year, instead motivating the crowd from five risers that will be placed in the stands, senior Yell Leader Keller Cox said.
“I think these risers do a good job of making us more visible, and if each Yell Leader does their job, I think we can still make the atmosphere of Kyle Field as normal as possible,” Cox said. “I think it was sad at first to know that we would not be on the sideline, but on the other hand I was like, ‘Let’s freaking go! We get to be in Kyle Field on gameday, still having a presence.’”
Midnight Yell will also take place online for the first home game, as well as for every away game yell practice. After the first home yell practice, leadership will reevaluate if there is a safe way to conduct an in-person Midnight Yell.
“It’ll be very interesting to see how much of a crowd we draw, because some of our biggest crowds are at our away game yell practices with an online presence,” Cox said. “I really think if we spread the word and get people to tune into these online yell practices, we could really have a huge impact on the university and provide some of the same spirit that an in-person Midnight Yell Practice would normally provide.”
Despite all the changes, Beazley said the band’s consistency and routine are essential to keeping up the spirit amid the pandemic.
“What we do really means a lot to a lot of people,” Beazley said. “Continuing to play in the mornings and letting people hear us for miles away and just doing what we do best and making sure people see that is really important, not only to us as students as part of this amazing organization, but as Aggies wanting to share the spirit and bring some sort of normalcy to a crazy and unsettling time.”
Even with A&M football games looking different this season, Cox said everyone who plays a part in gameday traditions is doing their best to face these challenges with a positive mindset.
“A question we must continue to ask ourselves is, ‘How can we make the most of this year?’” Cox said. “But in the midst of all the change, there is one thing that will always remain the same, and that is the Spirit of Aggieland.”