When Joey Shepherd learned that marching band competitions were canceled in 2020, the Triton Central High School band director was not surprised.

After all, he and his students had finished out the 2019-20 school year with virtual learning and are entering the upcoming school year under unusual circumstances.

That’s not to say he and the band were not disappointed.

“It was a little disappointing but I think it was the right decision,” he said Friday morning following the band’s practice. “We’re going to keep moving on, keep doing stuff. I think it was the right decision.”

Under normal circumstances, the marching band competes in several competitions, starting in early September, leading up to regionals, semi-state and, if they qualify as the band has done in the past, state.

The band will perform at Triton Central’s five home football games as well as possibly doing some independent, non-competitive shows in September.

Current circumstances have forced the band to modify the most basic of things, from practicing social distancing to no longer sharing a music stand when they rehearse indoors to washing hands frequently.

When school resumes next week, the band will rehearse in the auditorium to ensure social distancing is practice.

But perhaps most noticeable for the moment are the masks.

Band members continue to wear their masks while rehearsing.

When the instruments come up, meaning the brass and wind players are about to play, the masks go down, except for the percussion and guard. When the instruments go down, the masks go up to cover their mouths.

“It’s been difficult for sure,” Shepherd said. “The kids have been great about it. Obviously no one really enjoys it but they’re doing very well. It’s been difficult but we’re still making it happen.”

Even the brass and wind instruments themselves are covered for additional protection.

One of the parents made the instrument coverings.

“It works pretty well,” he said. “It’s a different world we live in. That’s for sure.”

The year’s show, “ME!” is based off the Taylor Swift song with the same name.

The show follows a character who begins with self doubt represented by the song “Bad Liar” by Imagine Dragons, followed by “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. By the end of the show, the character ends with self acceptance represented by Swift’s song.

This is an easier show, a decision made prior to COVID-19. It was a fortunate decision, Shepherd said, considering the band doesn’t know how long it will be able to rehearse with the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year.

Despite the circumstances, the band continues to work hard, he said.

“Obviously we’re being as safe as possible,” he said. “I’ve been telling people, I think this is safer than what we’ll be facing next week in the classroom.”