At the beginning of the pandemic, many University students returned to their campuses with an uncertainty of how the semester will be conducted, especially those in extracurricular activities, such as football, cheer and in this case, marching bands.
“I think this pandemic definitely has shown the discipline in myself and throughout the program, because we really got to see who has the heart, especially those who still come to practice and still want to make the best out of any given situation.” (Cecillio Hunte, Powerhouse of the South Percussionist, personal communication, April 13, 2021)
Many extracurriculars on Savannah State’s campus decided to limit their participation and many university band programs had decided due to their large number of band members or inadequacy to conform to CDC guidelines, to cancel their seasons or limit their band interactions, but not the Savannah State University’s “Powerhouse of the South” Marching band. The Powerhouse of the South had a full season and practice was still on everyday with or without a field to perform on. “...it was kind of awkward doing band from a distance, but once we came back last fall, we got back into the same routine we’ve been doing. I feel through the pandemic we’ve actually become stronger.” (Ronald Bryant, Powerhouse of the South Trombonist, personal Communication, April 13, 2021) Even though the “P.O.T.S.” band came back into the pandemic swinging, they knew and upheld every and all of the precautions of keeping everyone safe and everyone distant for their safety.
“ It was hard because we had to space out and find different rooms to play in, but that was the only thing that was really difficult. Everything else was band because our Director Mr. Yates was a very intense director who has a purpose here. He was our backbone and regardless of
anything, he kept us on track.” (Janice Baker, Powerhouse of the South Trombonist, personal communication, April 13, 2021) Like any student athlete, band members are expected to uphold their academics while managing their time around what they love. “The pandemic really gave us time to improve ourselves and how we want to get our numbers up. It also made sure we as members had continued to still manage our time and still give our best to the program and our virtual classes so this semester really was about adapting.” (Johnnie Kinsey-Hamilton, Powerhouse of the South Drum Major, personal communications, April 13, 2021)
For our musically-inclined students in the SSU band, the band program was the only outlet they had that was still holding strong through the stress of virtual classes and the unexpected pandemic which is something the institution and the members should be proud of. “Honestly what’s crazy is I believe band helped me get through the pandemic. It was the only thing that remained consistent the entire school year. Every other class shutdown or was cancelled, it was the only thing that kept me grounded, something to look forward to. It was our only sense of normalcy.” (Janice Baker, Powerhouse of the South Trombonist)
Through the midst of the SSU band’s marching season, they had some phenomenal performances and opportunities such as performing for Dr. Jill Biden who came to SSU’s campus to promote the Election of her husband and current 46th U.S. President Joe Biden, winning the $3,000 1st place prize from the Top Ladies of Distinction Battle of the Bands Competition, and scoring a contract deal with Sony Records. “These were all great highlights and a great honor not only for the band program, but for Savannah State University. Keep in mind that the band program is the ambassador of the university and a major recruiting tool for the institution. So for the band to perform for a Presidential Campaign, and be acknowledged by that campaign, that acknowledgement went around the world for the University and band program.” (Derrick K. Yates, Powerhouse of the South Band Director, personal communication, April 13, 2021)
Although the band did thrive through their obstacles, the campus’ energy and student body is truly missed. Just like any other University sport, marching bands thrive off of the encouragement and support of their institution and fans which indeed will be needed when the campus is back in person during the Fall 2021 semester. “ Rehearsing through the pandemic was extremely challenging, primarily because virtual performances are not quite the same as in person. The feedback and interaction from the student body was a little bit challenging through technology. It makes you have to come up with new ways of communicating to the students to get the same results.” (Derrick K. Yates, Powerhouse of the South Band Director)
So why shouldn’t we count the Powerhouse of the South out? “Because this band does not stop working. Contrary to popular belief, we’re always doing something here. We never stop whether you see us performing or not, and I think that is something people can appreciate about this particular band program.” (Keyshana McClendon, Powerhouse of the South Clarinetist) The Powerhouse of the South is here to stay and will continue to “power through” any and all obstacles put in front of them.
As you can see, the SSU band program is filled from director to dancer with true heart and determination for its program and will continue to succeed for many years to come. “We are doing everything we can and are supposed to do to keep moving forward no matter the challenges that come our way.” (Johnnie Kinsey-Hamilton, Powerhouse of the South Drum Major)
“ I will be auditioning until I can’t anymore.” (Derrick K. Yates, Powerhouse of the South Band Director) Watch out Savannah State, you may need a bigger band room.