Photo courtesy of Kim Larimer via Spirit of Twin Lakes Facebook page

Spirit of Twin Lakes Marching Band members warm up prior to a regional competition last October.

MONTICELLO — The Spirit of Twin Lakes Marching Band received some bad news late last week.

The Indiana State School Music Association on Friday canceled live competitive marching band activities statewide just as local schools prepare to start the new academic year next month.

In a news release, the association said it couldn’t ensure a safe environment for participants and spectators at a live event because of the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency.

“I know that this is incredibly disappointing to hear, but the executive committee at ISSMA (made up of current and former music educators) came to this decision because it is the only option that keeps our students safe from the potential threat that this pandemic brings,’ Sam Wells, SOTL’s band director, wrote on the band’s Facebook page.

Wells added that, despite the state competition cancellation, marching band is not canceled entirely.

“We are going to continue rehearsing our awesome show, and we’re going to continue making memories and beautiful music together,” Wells wrote. “Marching band is not over; it is just going to look different this year. We will seek out every possible performance opportunity to ensure that we make the most of the time we have together.”

ISSMA is the body that governs Indiana’s regional, semi-state and state final marching band competitions, as well as other scholastic music events throughout the year. The association’s marching band state finals are the culmination of a long, intense season in which bands put together elaborate shows. They’re conducted each year at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Wells and assistant band director Kelso Daning announced the ISSMA’s decision to their band students before the official announcement was made. Daning said he and Wells planned to meet a lot more in the coming weeks to map out possibilities for the coming year.

“Essentially, we are moving forward with football games halftimes, going to plan some community performances here in Monticello and possibly look at local schools who may host a non-competitive non-ISSMA-affiliated contest,” Daning said.

The news is especially somber for SOTL, which is a perennial contender for top band honors in the state and regularly earns “gold” ratings during competitions.

Wells wrote that while he understands the decision may prompt some of his band members to “give up,” he urged them to remember why they joined the band in the first place.

“It was never about trophies and scores; it was always about the amazing memories you made with your band family,” he wrote. “I fell in love with marching band a long time ago, and as much as it pains me that we can’t have a traditional season this year, I’m so excited for the memories we are going to make.”

Wells wrote that it is important that “we come together in times like these and watch out for each other.”

“I know that we will come out of this stronger than ever.”