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With new safety measures in place, some school bands will practice together in person this year

East Aurora Middle School Band Director Ben Davis says he will divide his band into three different rehearsal groups to allow for social distancing.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Singing and playing instruments require more safety protocols than lots of other activities, but some school band directors across Western New York are finding ways for their students to play together in person again this year.

We showed you the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's "Play On" videos over the summer. Local music teachers like band director Ben Davis of Parkdale Elementary and East Aurora Middle School used them to help recruit students to choose an instrument and join the school's band at the end of last school year.  His 160 4th-8th graders have been practicing virtually for months. East Aurora is implementing a hybrid model when their school year begins Thursday, and the elementary school band will stay virtual for now.

However, Davis plans to attempt some in-person lessons and band rehearsals with his middle school students. There will be a lot of changes, including how far apart the students will have to sit from each other when they're playing.

"The state is recommending a 12-foot distance, so we can't fit a whole lot of people in our spaces, unless we have a very large space, or get creative about where we do that,"  Davis told 2 On Your Side.  "So, that's a challenge. Then understandably, there are just parents that are nervous about that added exposure for kids, doing something that you really can't avoid the moisture in the air, when you're playing or singing."

Davis says the middle school band will likely be divided into thirds for rehearsals to allow everyone to spread out. The percussionists will wear their masks to play. The district is also looking into getting special masks with flaps so students can still wear them while playing their woodwind and brass instruments.

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