Community struggles to be felt in fine arts as students are separated.
Attempting to sing or play an instrument during COVID is awkward, annoying and aggravating.
During the first week of school in August, I enjoyed the time that I had free that would typically be spent in band or choir. But that joy was very short lived.
In band we meet all together on Monday for devotional, prayer requests and announcements. During this time none of us play our instruments since the band hall is not big enough for all of us to play with COVID-19 guidelines in place. We mostly play in sectionals throughout the week.
I’m a percussionist, so our rehearsals are mostly atonal with the exception of timpanis and mallet percussion. I can only imagine how shallow the rest of the band sounded in their rehearsals without percussion.
Wind players have had a seemingly hard time trying to maintain good technique as well as breath support while also being required to wear a mask. Percussionists also have to wear masks but it’s considerably easier because we use our hands instead of our mouths to play our instruments.
On top of masks, each wind instrument has a covering over the opening or bell. This can be specifically frustrating for french horns because most tuning can be adjusted by keeping a hand inside the bell.
Throughout the semester, the entire band has only played twice in the same room. The first time was very unproductive considering we were all spread out across Burgess Auditorium and because of that it was excruciatingly difficult to follow Tim Gunter, director of bands.
But by the second time, we were all more confident in our parts and we learned to trust our eyes instead of our ears. And the choirs and bands share many of the same problems.
Choir has been kind of sporadic. Instead of rehearsing in the choir room, sectionals meet in the Toland Worship Center and choir as a whole meets in Burgess. In order to avoid confusion, communication is vital.
Another vital part of choir, as well as band, is breathing. Proper vocal technique requires intentional and deliberate breathing which can be the most difficult part of singing. The key to a strong supported voice is a deep breath before every phrase of a melody.
These techniques are immediately hindered by wearing masks. There have been multiple moments in choir where I have choked up because I breathed too deeply while wearing a mask. But vocal technique isn’t the only thing choir members have to think about.
Musicians in a group setting typically follow tempo using their ear, but when spread out, this way of keeping tempo is unreliable. Keeping tempo is what choir struggles with most simply because we are too far from each other. You never know the importance of what you have till it’s gone.
I remember sitting on the tour bus in March when Mr. Gunter disappointedly told us that the fine arts tour would have to be cut short. We were headed to Houston which was a hotspot for COVID cases. Our immediate return was for everyone’s health and benefit, but I felt cheated.
Once we were back in Conway, choir and band wouldn’t meet for the rest of the spring semester. I felt empty and alone because I was no longer making music with my friends. I never realized the importance of that community.
During the summer I had written a couple of songs, recorded a lot of beats and I did my best to always try and do something related to music. But I was still missing that sense of community- that musical bond I had with everyone in band or choir.
I am thankful that choir and band are still meeting because it is refreshing to see friends I don’t see often. The fine arts department is like a family to me. My parents, my sister, my aunt, my uncle and my cousin have all been in choir or band at CBC, and deep down, I’m heartbroken. It breaks my heart to see my family being forced to function like this.
I have had my occasional “come what may” moments for the sake of rehearsing in a productive way. But I can be a drama queen and I know that.
This semester has been difficult and unexpected. I expected COVID guidelines to be annoying but not ridiculous. The fine arts department has been an integral part of CBC since its formation in 1952. I hate the fact that we may not have a concert this semester, but there’s always next semester.