The long months since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Indiana in early 2020 have been hard for everyone, as Manchester High School (MHS) band director Jeff Huber can attest.

“COVID-19 has made many parts of band more difficult and impacts how we rehearse, travel and the performances,” said Huber.

Huber said students being quarantined have been a challenge as well, but, luckily, “no cases have been transmitted or anyone quarantined from being contact traced during band class this year or last year.”

“Band students know how to work together and help each other,” said Huber.

The 2021 Squire Band is 32 members strong with 15 woodwinds, nine brass players, three percussionists and four guards.

The band is a five-time ISSMA Scholastic Class B Finalist in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, the band hopes to qualify at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne for its sixth trip to Scholastic Finals.

Huber said over the summer the marching band had several practices including a two-week band camp where they rehearse eight hours a day. During the school year, the marching band rehearses for several hours outside of school and daily during class.

This school year, in addition to home football games the Squire Band has worked hard to win and place in several competitions.

The Squire Band’s competition season started with a bang at Goshen High School on Saturday, Sept. 11. The band won its class Scholastic B and swept all captions for Best Music, Best Visual and Best Effect.

“The band had a great performance despite some hot conditions,” said Huber. “Their show this year is a ‘Western Adventure.’ It’s a classic cowboy show as the band embarks on a cattle drive, camps under the stars, battles cattle rustlers and rides off into the sunset. Music comes from great westerns like ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ ‘How the West Was Won’ and ‘The Red Pony.’”

Before that, it had been almost two years since the last time they had competed as all Indiana marching band competitions during the 2020 season were canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The band worked extremely hard this year. Two years is a long time to miss marching and we had a lot of obstacles to overcome. It’s great to see the students’ hard work paying off. I’m excited to see how far we can go this season,” said Huber.

On Monday, Sept. 25, the Squire Band placed bands in Scholastic Class B at Carroll High School in their new football stadium.

“The contest was very close with four good bands in the class,” said Huber.

The band took second behind Whitko, beating out Bremen and Heritage.

On Saturday, Oct. 2, the Squire Band won Best Music and placed second in Scholastic Class B at Plymouth High School. Tri-County narrowly placed ahead of Manchester, with Wawasee placing third and Heritage fourth.

“This was a really hard week,” said Huber. “Several students were in and out due to quarantine and illness, and there was a time when we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to compete Saturday. The band worked hard and pulled off a great performance. They put themselves in a great position heading into Prelims next week and kept themselves in a competitive position.”

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.