Wind Ensemble Adapts to Rehearsals During a Pandemic

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By Zach Taber, Staff Writer

With the ongoing issue of Covid-19, everything from sports programs to theatre groups have had to make adjustments in order to ensure students’ safety. One such group is the Wind Ensemble, who have faced special challenges in resuming their rehearsals as students have returned to campus. 

The students and faculty of Wind Ensemble are no strangers to needing to adapt when it comes to the coronavirus, after dealing extensively with this issue last spring when campus was shut down. “Due to Zoom’s latency, it is impossible to play in time with each other” explained instrument performance music major (clarinet), Jacklyn Smith. “Instead, we spent the rest of the spring semester working on special projects,” said Smith. 

Professor McRoy, director of Wind Ensemble ensured the group was still able to make the most out of virtual learning. “We did a variety of different things,” said McRoy, “at the time we were working with a lot of music by composer Brian Balmages – preparing for our annual Band Festival when he would have been with us. In March-April, we did a deep dive on some of that music and did some analysis and other exploration.” 

In spite of their successful handling of the remote spring semester, students and faculty alike were grateful to be returning to in-person rehearsals. “After not having in-person rehearsals since early March, coming back to that environment is something I’ve really been looking forward to throughout these past few months” said Smith. This semester however, rehearsals will function differently than they ever have before, in order to ensure the group’s safety.

“We rehearse all spread out, six-plus feet apart…Percussionists wear gloves….Everyone has to use their own music stand. I wear a headset wireless mic broadcast through a speaker so everyone can hear me through my mask,” explained McRoy. 

Wind Ensemble has also had to deal with the added challenge of having woodwind and brass players, whose instruments require air flow in order to be played. Smith spoke about how these instrumentalists have found ways to play their instruments in a safe manner: “We made masks with a slit (so the mouthpiece fits through), and bell covers to further decrease the risk of contamination.”

 Even with masks, social distancing, gloves, and coverings on their instruments, Wind Ensemble has taken additional precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in their rehearsal space. “We rehearse for a period of time, then take a break for the air in our rehearsal hall to clean and change, then we return to continue to rehearse…There was a lot of scientific research done over the summer at the University of Colorado that we learned from on how to continue to make music in this environment,” explained McRoy, “It’s different, but it’s working.”

Now, the group is looking forward to what lays ahead for the remainder of the semester, including some virtual performances and events. “Right now, my plan is to record a performance in our rehearsal hall toward the middle of November – before Thanksgiving. We will then broadcast that via Zoom at a later date along with some interviews of students and perhaps some of the composers whose music we are preparing” said McRoy. This foresight and hardwork Professor McRoy has been putting into the group has not gone unappreciated by the students in the ensemble “[He] has worked extremely hard to ensure we have a wonderful and safe semester” said Smith.

With a successful method of holding safe rehearsals in place and some virtual events on the horizon, Wind Ensemble is excited for the rest of their semester of making music together, even if it’s done from six feet apart. “In rehearsal we talk openly about how great it is to be together doing what we love, and we also share openly what a challenge it is to do that in this environment. The key is to embrace it and not fight it. Turn every challenge into an opportunity to learn and grow” said McRoy.

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