NMSU Pride band plays on with the help of student-designed masks

Katelyn Zuments, uniform manager for the Pride of New Mexico and a sophomore mechanical engineering student at NMSU, talks about how she designed the masks that will allow the PRIDE of New Mexico to play this marching season. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)

New Mexico State University’s Pride of New Mexico Marching Band, known as “The World’s Most Dangerous Marching Band,” may now be the world’s safest, after a student created two different types of masks that allow members to continue playing the music they love while still reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Pride Band Director and NMSU Associate Director of Bands Steven Smyth said the mask designs, produced by The Print Guys in Las Cruces, are now being used at universities and high schools nationwide, and have raised $12,000 for music scholarships at NMSU.

That includes a scholarship for mask designer Katelyn Zuments, uniform manager for the Pride of New Mexico and a sophomore mechanical engineering student at NMSU.

“It just kind of happened,” said Zuments, who worked on the mask designs along with her mom. “It’s really cool, because it means more kids get to do music this year.”

One mask design for flute players features a horizontal hole with a flap, while the second mask design for brass and woodwind instruments features an offset vertical hole. Both masks are kept sealed to the instruments with the help of magnets.

“We’ve sold 12,000 masks to about nine different universities, including Oklahoma State and University of Massachusetts. We also have 20 to 30 high schools across the nation using them,” Smyth said, adding that The Print Guys had to hire additional staff to keep up with the demand.

Smyth said $1 from each mask sale is going toward music scholarships at NMSU. Most recently, Smyth worked with Las Cruces Public Schools to create a mask featuring the NMSU and LCPS branding.

The Pride band is also implementing several steps in order to keep members safe, including plastic hoops around each member to serve as social distancing markers, and a fabric caddy to wrap around the band’s large water jugs to hold plastic gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. And instead of relying on printed sheet music, each band member sports a cellphone holder around their wrists in order to use apps that show music and drills.

While the band’s performance schedule this semester remains uncertain, the main priority for the band, Smyth said, is to keep students playing.

“The kids really wanted to have band. They really need this,” Smyth said.