Le Bonheur health officials recommend schools cancel in-person band practice

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For high school bands in the Mid-South, the pandemic has had them marching to a different beat this summer and, in some cases, not at all because of safety concerns for students.

“Just to be honest, we haven’t found a lot of ways to mitigate those risks,” said Dr. Nicholas Hysmith, Le Bonheur’s medical director of infection prevention. “I know that causes a lot of disappointment, concern and angst to parents and teachers.”

For weeks, doctors at Le Bonheur and UT Health Science Center have been focused on music.

Not listening to it, but they’re part of a task force to determine if in-person band practice will put children at risk.

“If we can find a safe way for it to happen, we are definitely all for that, I think a safe way for that to happen is probably logistically not going to be possible,” Hysmith said.

He says it’s because of air and aerosol particles blown into brass and woodwind instruments and the likely lack of social distancing.

The task force tells WREG its recommending school districts not going virtual this year to stop the music.

“We’d love to be able to work with the school system and find a way to do this, but I think in reality with the restraints we’re working with in the school system the size and logistics, it’s going to be very difficult to be done safely,” Hysmith said.

It doesn’t look or sound like it used to for the highly coveted Cordova High School band.

“Normally, we’d have our marching band camp, but because of the unprecedented times, we decided to forgo that,” said Director Bands Roderick White.

Cordova High has a marching, band, symphonic band and jazz band.

“I know the students have been contacting me back and forth asking about band camp,” White said.

Because Cordova High is in the Shelby County School District, students will be learning and practicing virtually.        

“Yes, it could sound like it could be disappointing. Safety is key. I can’t express it enough and continue to tell my students we have to continue to remain safe,” White said. “Continue to practice. Hold your head up, and we will, over time, we’ll definitely be meeting again soon.”

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