The COVID-19 pandemic has placed strain on extracurricular activities on Albion College’s campus. Among those affected are the rehearsals and performances for music students.
Students playing instruments are required to wear special face masks in order to play their instruments safely.
“We have to wear these really strange musicians’ masks that, depending on which instrument you play, make it a mild inconvenience to unplayable,” said Evan Ziegelman, a senior trombone player in pep band, marching band and symphonic wind ensemble from Wixom. “The flutes just can’t play with them because it just keeps getting in their mouths.”
Students performing vocal music are also required to wear their masks while singing. Like the instrumental music masks, this has also created an obstacle in performing.
“Singing through a mask is very difficult because you have to sing louder,” said Caitlin Cummings, a junior Euphonics and concert choir member from Gurnee, Ill. “It totally messes up your breathing and where you’re supposed to be breathing in the music.”
In addition to these adaptations, the actual music performances have been forced to look very different.
With the loss of spectator sports in the fall semester and the regulations on winter sports, both marching band and pep band were forced to lose their typical stage and audience. The British Eighth Marching Band worked around this by hosting multiple concerts during the fall semester on the steps of Kresge Gymnasium. While these concerts gave the British Eighth a chance to perform, it was much different from their usual season.
“It’s been nice that we had the opportunities that we had last semester to perform on the steps of Kresge to whatever limited audience we had,” said Ziegelman. “It feels nice, but it also doesn’t feel the same. Especially missing all of the pregame stuff, it’s a whole experience. I just feel bad, especially for all the freshmen and all the sophomores.”
The change in performance space also marked a change in audience.
“Our concerts from last semester for marching band, not that many people would come to them, it would basically be friends of the people in the band and a couple of family members,” said Maddy Peterson, a junior trombone player in pep band, marching band and symphonic wind ensemble from Kalamazoo. “A couple of times, some teachers or even the president of the college would come by while we were rehearsing. But nobody would actually stay to watch our performance, which was just sad because it’s like 20 minutes, and we worked really hard for it.”
Feeling unsupported is common among music students this year. Though frustrated, some students are not surprised.
“In general, it’s how it always is with administrations, because band doesn’t pull in the people. It’s sports that pull in the people, which is really frustrating,” said Ziegelman. “Overall, I think it’s kind of a status quo. It just sucks.”
For others, it has been difficult to witness regulations on their own extracurriculars in comparison to freedom in others’ activities.
“I’m really glad sports teams are able to play,” said Cummings. “But it’s a little frustrating when teams can go to other states to play games, but we can’t have a concert, which involves less contact than many sports do. That’s a little frustrating.”
While hope remains for continued performances in the remaining semester, many keep their optimism guarded.
“We already had so much taken away from us and music is the one thing we can still do, I guess. It’s also hard to have that not be something,” said Cummings. “It’s hard to work for a goal that is non-existent.”
Despite fears that they might be working for a concert that won’t take place, music students continue with their ambitions to perform. While marching band season may be over, symphonic wind ensemble, jazz ensemble and concert choir are still working to deliver music in creative ways.
“We got a new band director this past semester who’s going to be in charge of the marching band and pep band,” said Peterson. “I know he has been going to talk to see if it’s even possible to go to one or two games, even if we just recorded ourselves and then just played that at the games. I don’t know what’s going to come of that, but I know he is working really hard to try and do that.”
With cautious optimism, new opportunities are being created for those who want to support music students.
“We’re looking for any opportunity we can, and we’re looking to ‘reactivate’ and try to get stuff rolling,” said Ziegelman. “As far as jazz band and symphonic [wind ensemble], we have some concert dates that we’re going to do. The only people who can show up are people who live on campus or are a music major.”
With new opportunities to perform, music students continue to look toward campus for support.
“It’s still really amazing how the music department was able to find a way to have us make music and work together, even if we have to limit how we do that,” said Peterson. “It would be really great if we could have people come to our concerts this semester, if they could come and support us or if they could just watch online.”