Music in the Air: Music Department Adapts to COVID-19

The jazz band, choir, and concert band are classes that rely on blowing or singing and they are experiencing many changes.

By: Sarah Williams

The jazz band, choir, and concert band are classes that rely on singing and blowing air. Similar to other schools in the same position, these classes have been forced to be outside. Outdoor classes are not the only differences these classes are dealing with.

A Famous Jazz Composer Zooms in

Jazz band practicing while Professor Douglass accompanies on keyboard. Photo taken by Sarah Williams on October 5th.

Associate Professor of Music, Mark Douglass said, “The jazz band’s music was composed by an Andrew Neu. Neu is a Jazz composer who recently started working for Hallmark.”

Neu listens to the band over Zoom on Wednesdays. He comments on how they are playing and teaches them to play his music better.

“He is well respected throughout the industry for his work as a saxophonist, woodwind player, arranger, composer, educator and recording artist,” states

Douglass said the jazz band is going through a “huge change”. They are not performance driven because they are not even sure if the events they have planned will happen. The band is only playing for their love of music.

While they are playing in the tents, the band has gotten good response from people passing by. People have even personally called Douglass to say it was good to hear the music.

When it gets colder, the jazz band plays in the White Auditorium in sectionals or the band room .

Douglass said COVID-19 had caused the class to be half the size of last year. Now, there are 12-13 students. They practice outside on Monday and Wednesday from 12:20 pm to 1:20 pm.

Masks Challenges the Choir

Choir warming up to practice their music. Photo taken by Sarah Williams on October 8th.

Professor of music, Brian Walrath, is the director of choirs. He prefers practicing outside because they don’t have to wear masks.

Walrath said, “You have to be able to see what shapes the students’ lips and tongues are making and how they are forming words and breathing. You just cannot do that with a mask on.”

He said the choir has been singing a variety of worship music from ancient and contemporary age music. They are singing “Breath of Heaven”, “The Lord is My Shepherd”, “Creation Sings”, and more.

There will be no fall concerts. Instead, the choir is recording a Christmas song. It will be released next week as part of President Ellis’ Christmas Card greeting.

The choir moves into the White Auditorium and makes sure to social distance when the weather worsens. Walrath said the choir practice on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays outside from 4 pm to 5 pm.

Restriction Shrinks the Concert Band

Concert band practicing while social distancing. Photo taken by Sarah Williams on October 7th.

In past years, community members would play with the band. Concert band director, Dr. Cynthia Duda, said the concert band is not allowing community members in the band due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It is disappointing,” Duda said. “We definitely miss having them here.”

The band is playing a variety of music, including Sousa marches, a Disney piece, and some music from last semester that were not performed due to COVID-19. They are also playing music composed by Handel and Frescobaldi.

The concert band doesn’t have approval to have concerts. However, there is a possibility of a recording or a live zoom performance.

Duda said there isn’t a plan on where to go when it gets colder. She is looking into practicing in the White Auditorium while social distancing measures and helpful improvements are produced for the tent, like a heater or tent flaps.

The concert band practices on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:40 pm to 3:40 pm.

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