Barry Houser, the director of Marching Illini, has announced that the annual Illinois Band Day and the Illinois Marching Band Championships are canceled this year due to COVID-19.
“We have been living in very interesting and uncertain times. As this pandemic continues to take us all on various daily roller coaster rides, the realization of certain events not taking place are becoming more evident,” said Houser on the Marching Illini Facebook page.
The decision comes as many large events around the country continue to cancel in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Previously, the university cancelled commencement for the 2020 graduating class.
Illinois Band Day allows high school band programs to come and spend a day with the Marching Illini at a home football game in Memorial Stadium. High school students are able to interact, rehearse and perform with the Marching Illini. Illinois Band Day 2019 featured 26 bands.
The Illinois Marching Band Championships brings 42 Illinois high school bands together to compete against one another in six different classes decided by Illinois High School Association enrollment classification. Bands would perform their show in front of judges to receive feedback. The high school bands would perform in Memorial Stadium.
While the announcements came early, Houser felt it would be irresponsible for the university to host two events that do not abide by or adhere to the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Board of Higher Education regulations.
“None of us as music educators should bear the burden of being partially responsible for any of our students, parents, or other community members being impacted by this virus, directly or indirectly. It’s simply not worth it,” Houser said.
Katelyn Malartsik, a junior cymbal player in the Marching Illini drumline, was looking forward to one of the traditions the drumline does during the competition, but was not surprised at the cancellations.
“At the end of the competition the drumline plays in the parking lot and plays for the high school students,” Malartsik said. “It’s really exciting to see high schoolers get excited for what you do.”
For Houser, the decision is only a temporary setback.
“As you can imagine, this decision is devastating to us on so many fronts, but it is the right one for this season,” Houser said. “We will return.”
Angelle Cortes and Amanda Brennan contributed to this report.