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Band Choir Orchestra make changes to ensure student safety

With new changes put in place to protect students in a classroom environment, there have also been changes seen in the music department that has influenced the way they practice as well as how concerts are being performed.

Choir in particular has seen some significant change to their concerts because they use their voices which raises their overall risk of exposure from others.

“Obviously we are spread out, we are wearing masks the entire time because our aerosol carries farther than anyone else when we sing so to be cautious we keep masks on and stay at least six feet apart when we are singing. Plus our choirs because of the hybrid schedule are really split up into three sections: virtual, A, B so that (the virtual concert) is the first time they have all been together all year,” Choir Director William Woods said. 

Because of these changes, they have introduced new learning techniques and structures that have benefitted them overall.

“Some of the things we have done have to do with the mask. Kind of some teaching things like if they are really taking a deep breath in that mask should be really heading into their mouth and especially if it is loose, I try to tell them to spin their air so that it is spinning the mask off their face. Usually, we would say spin it to the back wall or spin it to that wall. We have to be very articulate with the mask on. That’s going to help our pronunciation in droves,” Woods said. “It’s given them a new confidence because they are in such small groups now like 13 and 15 so because they are in smaller choirs they are going to have to fend for themselves. Yes, I would rather have them all together and bunch them together on choir risers, but this is going to help us and make us better down the way.”

The bands have also seen some changes and struggles regarding practices as they do not currently have an even distribution of instruments across all the classes.

“The hybrid schedule did not take into account what instrument kids play and so that has been difficult trying to figure out that on A day I have one set of instruments but then on B day, I have a completely different composition of the band,” Band Director Johann Sletto said. “Going green will be easier because I will know what types of instruments I have on the band on the days we are in school. We have to have six feet because we are playing without a mask. Going green, we are going to have to split the group in half in order to have a group that is safe or spread people out in the auditorium and rehearse that way.”

As a teacher, Sletto has also had to introduce new teaching methods in order to successfully conduct the band.

“We scan in all the music now. Before I would give the people their music in person but now I scan in the music so that anyone who’s virtual can participate. I am not conducting as much because I have some kids face to face and kids on zoom. It is a lot more metronome work to keep everyone together,” Sletto said.

In regards to concerts, they have changed some of their seating on stage but overall it is very similar to last year.

“We are going to keep our six-foot spacing on the stage, the original settings won’t work. We will have more of a grid pattern. We are also limiting the crowd,” Sletto said, “I am also going to have one band perform at the concert so that we keep the numbers of people present down.”

The orchestra has seen the least number of changes because they are able to keep their masks on as they don’t interfere with their practices and performances. Some of the biggest changes overall have been how ISSMA is being conducted this year for all groups.

“We’ve had to take our direction from ISSMA State Music Association and follow their lead and whether we can actually have these events or not. As long as Coronavirus is the issue that it is we may struggle just to have the competitions. We would like to, we hope to,” Orchestra Director Tom Reed said. “The big thing that is happening now is that ISSMA is allowing virtual entries which means that typically, students who are participating in solo and ensemble, are all being submitted virtually. The students are creating the recording here (at Crown Point High School) and then submitting it to the ISSMA office. We have deadlines that we are trying to meet to get things turned in on time.”

These restrictions have affected students deeply, but students are using music to release and feel some sense of normalcy.

“You can tell they want things to go back to normal. You can tell that they want to see their friends, all of their friends, they want to be able to eat lunch together and not six feet apart in a gym. It’s a hit. The nice part about music is that it is a period that they can just release and kind of forget about everything except that they’ve got the mask on,” Woods said. “It kind of heals a little bit to be able to get together today (the day of recording for fall concert) or just singing in general. Which is more than a lot of groups are doing right now. There are some groups that have said no singing once so ever. We are at least still singing and playing and doing stuff.”

Junior Chaela Laus who is part of Crown Point High School’s chorale, agrees with this sentiment.

“I miss being with my entire Chorale and sitting next to everyone and laughing with them but the space between each of us lets us hear ourselves better and makes us better musicians,” Laus said. “It’s a challenge being in rehearsal just because we’re so spaced apart, but we’re adjusting and making it work.”

Whatever is to come, Sletto believes they will adapt during these complex, ever-changing times.

“It’s hard to know what we are going to do a month from now. I think one of the keys to surviving the pandemic is to be flexible. We just have to adapt to whatever comes next. If we are in the same position we are now we will keep doing the same thing we are doing now, if we go red we will adapt to that, if we go green we will adapt to that,” Sletto said.

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