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Drums thundered through the air, trumpets blared, saxophones swooned and, most noticeably, an audience roared with applause.

These are the sounds of music that reverberated through Stockton High School’s gym on Sunday, May 2, for SHS’ spring band and choir concert.

The event seemed to prove the steady perseverance R-I music students have displayed through trying times marked by unprecedented change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After all, SHS’s band and choir have spent many performances this year in front of video cameras instead of crowds. School music programs in Missouri have seen much tighter restrictions than athletic programs, and there was uncertainty about the spread of germs through musical instruments at the beginning of the school year.

“That’s the nice part about it — getting the band family back together, and being able to let these kids show what they can do,” R-I band director Marvin Manring said after Sunday’s spring concert.

It’s a way, perhaps, for a sense of normalcy to boomerang back into the soundscape, considering how R-I’s spring concert was canceled last year due to the school year being closed early from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And the timing, Manring noted, was a hard blow due to both the 2020 band’s strength and the seniors who could not see their final events play out. 

“We were on a pretty good roll last year, and everything just stopped,” Manring said. 

Ever since the pandemic changed the swing of social gatherings, R-I’s band has felt many losses of opportunity. 

R-I could not play at Missouri’s high school basketball finals — it was canceled the week of their performance.  

Students couldn’t march at the University of Missouri’s homecoming parade, Apple Butter Makin’ Days or the Maple Leaf Festival.

There was no in-person Veterans Day assembly. The band’s December of 2020 concert was performed virtually. Additionally, virtual solo, ensemble and large ensemble festivals were virtual rather than live.

Additionally, SHS’ choir looked a bit smaller this year.

“For some reason or another, the numbers just really fell this year,” Manring said. “I’d like to see those numbers get back to where they were. I don’t know the number for enrollment next year, but I know it’s going to grow.”

However, through the year, R-I musical students have still had the chance to grab positive opportunities, including marching in Stockton’s Black Walnut Festival, going on merry socially-distanced Christmas caroling and sharing the stage with Bolivar’s Southwest Baptist University Wind Ensemble in March this year, Manring said.

Additionally, the band received an ensemble rating of “exemplary” from their performance for Missouri State High School Activities Association’s State Musical Festival. R-I’s choir received a “satisfactory” rating, as well.

In reflection, Manring said that while the band has seen a mountain of change in opportunities this year, R-I musicians still “kept busy, kept on working and were determined to have as normal a year as we could.”

Looking ahead, Manring said the band will still host its annual “Band-O-Rama” fundraiser this year. The event will not feature a meal as seen in years past, but will still have a musical performance for band supporters to enjoy.

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