Notes from the Office: Your 2021 Head Manager

IMG_0453Hey Alumni!

My name is Carey Lau, and I served as the 2021 Head Manager of the Big Red Marching Band! I’m a senior majoring in Biology & Society and minoring in Global Health in the School of Arts & Sciences. I’m so grateful for this amazing opportunity to lead the band during this unique year!

Looking back on the spring semester, it’s amazing to see how far the band has come. Oliver & I planned a whole slew of virtual events, including Second Night, HM/DM Office Hours, game nights (Tetris is a band favorite!), and a series of music workshops, including sessions on how to read music and how to conduct for our new members. Later in the semester, we worked with our advisor Megan Ramey to create Covid policies for the band. Beginning in April, we were approved for outdoor, socially distanced rehearsals, capped at 30 students. We wore personal protective equipment, including specialized face masks designed for use with instruments, as well as bell covers or instrument bags. Later in the semester, we were approved for 60 students at rehearsals. We were even able to host a Senior Concert and Non-Sec for our Class of 2021 seniors, a few events they had missed out on during Fall 2020.

Over the summer, Oliver & I began to plan for the fall semester, although we were uncertain about whether or not the band would be allowed to hold in-person events and what restrictions we would have to follow. Ultimately, we were approved to have outdoor rehearsals with masks, bell covers, and bags. Later in the semester, as cases around campus decreased, we were approved to have outdoor rehearsals without masks, and indoor rehearsal with masks, covers, and bags. It was great to finally meet some of our new members in person!

Our first game of the year was a home game vs. VMI, and our Homecoming game! Although some Homecoming and alumni events on campus were cancelled at the last minute due to Covid cases, we were grateful for the opportunity to perform for the first time in nearly two years. We also marched in our new uniforms for the very first time! The new uniform process began in 2019 and was later put on hold because of the pandemic, so it was exciting for the band to finally wear them.

However, Homecoming wasn’t the only event impacted by the pandemic. We did not end up going to Yale, as they did not allow visitors. Our trip to Harvard was cancelled the day before, as the bus company was experiencing a shortage of bus drivers. Additionally, the Harvard hockey portion of the trip to Penn was cancelled, as Harvard’s visitor policy changed at the last minute. However, the band spirit persevered, and we were able to plan some other fun events! Oliver & I planned a Field Day in place of the Harvard trip, and we even planned the band’s first trip to Dartmouth in many years. On the way to Dartmouth, we stopped in Boston for the night and performed at Faneuil Hall, which ended up being one of the most memorable performances all year. The game at Dartmouth was a blast as well, and we were given a warm welcome by the Dartmouth band. This trip was definitely one of the highlights of the season, and we were happy to make so many new friends in the Dartmouth band!

We also continued to promote inclusion and diversity throughout 2021. At the beginning of the year, Bandstaph attended a diversity training for student leaders, as well as completed a training on how students can help others through mental health crises. We also hosted an instrument tutoring program at the beginning of the fall semester, which made learning a first (or second!) instrument more accessible for students in the band. We also provided free menstrual products in both bathrooms in the Fischell Band Center. We also provided gluten-free options at games, and Pudgies even special-ordered vegan cheese for the band, so our vegan bandies could enjoy pizza!

Prior to DM elections, our wonderful Philanthropy Coordinator & Diversity Chair Melissa Montejo ‘22 hosted a Pre-Election Forum, where band members were able to discuss which parts of elections they appreciated and which parts could be improved. Ultimately, we decided to make a few modifications to elections to help foster a more welcoming and positive environment. We created a set of community guidelines that were emphasized and followed throughout the election process, and used an online form to submit questions. Although elections were quite long, they remained respectful, and we hope that these changes will continue making the band a more welcoming place for everyone.

We finished up our season with our last home game, Senior Concert, and Nonsec. The day after Nonsec, all student activities were cancelled due to the rise in Covid cases, so we were extremely grateful we were able to host the event in person. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to our seniors, but we know we’ll see them back on the hill soon!

Although we experienced many disappointments throughout the year, the band’s spirit, sense of community, and love for making music together was so inspiring as we kept pushing forward. I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to serve the band in a year unlike any other.

Thank you to Oliver & Cups for being amazing leaders of the band this year. I couldn’t have asked for a more positive and spirited pair of students to lead the band with during this uncertain year. And best of luck to Bella Burgess and Zack Kozma, our 2022 Head Manager and Drum Major, and the rest of the 2022 Bandstaph! I know they will accomplish amazing things and continue to make the band the most fun-loving and welcoming organization on Cornell’s campus.

Flove always,

Carey “wow, what a year it’s been!” Lau