During the pandemic when in-person events, competitions and performances were cancelled across the board, Jason Sleppy did something remarkable for his band students at William Mason High School. He organized a culminating showcase performance at Indiana’s Lucas Oil Stadium to replace the end-of-the-season competition.
“When we learned in July that the Bands of America (BOA) season would be cancelled, we immediately began investigating ways to provide a season-ending experience that met our criteria of being a world-class venue that we could safely travel to without staying overnight,” Sleppy explained. “We reached out to Lucas Oil Stadium to discover that we could rent the facility for half the cost of our typical BOA Grand Nationals trip!”
Organizing the trip required collaboration among multiple state officials and health departments, but Sleppy was determined. According to one of his “40 Under 40” nomination letters, a former colleague wrote, “He made it a lasting memory for the Mason band family and provided closure for the seniors.”
The performance at Lucas Oil Stadium was the culmination of Sleppy’s efforts throughout the pandemic. When quarantines were mandated, “it was clear that the only way to move forward was with a leader who was willing to create a new approach and who would never give up,” a band parent wrote in another nomination letter. “Mr. Sleppy did exactly that and he did it with a smile on his face and compassion in his heart.”
Another event that Sleppy spearheaded during the pandmic was the Mason Invitational. “We teamed up with our Mason boosters to create a non-competitive event for 15 bands in our area to safely attend by redesigning the audience and band flow to allow for social distancing,” he said. “A panel of national clinicians provided feedback, and we had amazingly positive responses from the parents, directors and students who attended.”
Sleppy is pragmatic and positive in reflecting on the last year. “Life consists of constant challenges, and you have to make an active decision to not have a pessimistic view. Challenges are a catalyst and opportunity to grow and change for better,” he said.