A year to remember: Liberty’s “Spirit of the Mountain” marching band conquers 2020 with resounding success

Marching to the beat of a different drum is one thing. Marching through the beat of the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be another. However, Director of Bands Stephen Kerr Liberty’s “The Spirit of the Mountain” marching band successfully made it through. 

Beginning at band camp in the early summer, the band prioritized safety precautions while members rehearsed and performed. This included the normal social distancing and masks. The band members also went completely digital, no longer using paper for music. 

“We used a subscription-based program called ‘Ultimate Drilbook’”, Dr. Kerr said. “It allows us to take the drills that we write and send them to a band member with their positions on their smartphone.”

Despite precautions taken, there were times where six to eight band members were missing at a time. 

“It is difficult when even when one person is missing because we are so interdependent when it comes to our drill formations,” Dr. Kerr said. “The relationship that we have in those formations relies on guiding each other.”

Dr. Kerr mentioned that none of the members were quarantined because of the band. 

The “Spirit of the Mountain” band plays during Liberty’s football matchup against ULM on Oct. 10, 2020.
Photo by KJ Jugar – Liberty Photography

Because of COVID, the band could not compete this year, but the members played during home games. Dressed in their crisp red, white and blue uniforms, the 200 plus members spread out across the upper deck on the student section side of the stadium, adding to the limited occupant atmosphere with live music. At halftime, they took to the field in a COVID-19 appropriate manner – through a pre-recorded video.

Their pre-recorded performances aired on the stadium’s jumbotron, recording their tunes in late September and once again after fleshing out changes in their formations. 

They gave a special live performance of their halftime show for the families of the band in October during the Band Parents Weekend. 

“We were not able to hold a banquet for our band parents this year,” Kerr said. “Instead, we were able to secure Williams Stadium on Oct. 23. We held a rehearsal for all of the band families.”

“We had the whole stadium to ourselves. The weather was wonderful. It was warm and the air was still. It was a great time to share the components of our show to the families of the band,” he said.  

Quad drum section leader Johnathan Byus also reflected on the performance that night. 

“This was actually the only time we were able to perform our show in front of a live audience, and that audience was all of our biggest fans. Our parents,” Byus said. “Nothing beats playing the show in front of an audience. As a senior, that was my last public performance I’ll ever have in marching band.”

“This was actually the only time we were able to perform our show in front of a live audience. … Nothing beats playing the show in front of an audience.”

Johnathan Byus, quad drum section leader

According to Byus, the season still remained unforgettable and exciting despite the restrictions. 

“We very easily could not have had a show or even had a marching band this year,” Byus said. “However, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Kerr and Mr. Goddard, the band came together to move past any obstacle and make the best of what we had.”

“Along the way I made many friendships I know will last a very long time,” Byus continued. “Even though this season was not perfect, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it and I will never forget it.”

Daniel Ellis is a feature writer for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter @dnaieltyler

One comment

  • COVID has deepened appreciation among all of us, and pushed creativity in full view.
    Congratulations to Liberty University.

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