The sounds of silence

How the pandemic has changed the performing arts at RV


Shea Smith

Concert choir rehearses together virtually. Many performance groups have resorted to online rehearsals to hone their craft.

Maria Hickman, Arts & Culture Editor

When you think of the Performing Arts Center, you think of it as filled with the sounds of the orchestra or the melodic voices of the choir. This is not the case this year. Since the pandemic started, music teachers at RV had to adjust to this new way of teaching students online.

Before the pandemic, a typical chorus class taught by Grant Mech would consist of various vocal exercises, sight reading or practicing music for an upcoming performance. They would have been preparing for one of at least a dozen concerts they give a year on campus or one of the many they have off campus.

Similar things would be happening in the instrumental music classes taught by David Britton. In the ensemble, Orchestra and band classes, they would be working on skill-building through repertoire or on music for a concert. For his other classes, Music Theory, Rock Lab and Music Lab, students would be working on getting better at their specific instrument or learning more about music.

Instead there is silence. When quarantine first happened, no one knew when or if the students would be going to go back. 

“We didn’t know how long we were going to be out of school and we didn’t know what things were going to happen, so we just kept postponing events” said Mech regarding upcoming concerts the choir has coming up in the spring. 

Both Britton and Mech were confronted with the problem of how to keep their classes going without actually being there. They had their students doing self-practice and had them continue working on music they had gotten previously in hopes of going back or being able to perform them in-concert. However, after a while, both teachers knew that their classes would not meet in person again for the rest of the spring semester. 

As the new school year approached, things were going to be very different. With hybrid learning, only a portion of the students are in class and they have to be socially distanced while wearing masks, and only the in-person students can be heard in class since there is a lag with the virtual students. 

Both Britton and Mech try to get students playing or singing as much as possible, whether that’s working on their own part separately or trying something together. However playing or singing something together is hard for the ensemble classes because an ensemble requires everyone to be close together which they cannot be. “That’s the biggest challenge because it affects everything that we are able to do is proximity.” said Mech.

Both teachers can agree that they would rather be back in class with their students. “It’s not ideal, it’s not the way we want it,” said Britton. However, Britton does think this time doing online learning will be able to help better run class when we go back to in person full time. “I do think it is providing us opportunities, students and teachers, to fast track our technical savvy so when we go back to in-person full time, I think there are going to be new ways to supplement what we do in the classroom.”

However, there might be a way to listen and enjoy their music once again. Mech is very hopeful that they will be able to hold a concert. “Yes I do think that we will be able to have some kind of concert,” he said. He hopes that they are able to maybe film a concert or have one outside when the weather gets better. Britton also hopes they might be able to have an outdoor concert in the spring.

It’s not just teachers who are feeling the affects COVID has had on the music department, students are too. Music students had to quickly adjust to doing music online. 

“COVID has completely scrambled all of the music departments. We were forced to explore other methods of playing as ensembles” said orchestra student Dana Taylor. 

Even though music students have gotten more familiar with learning music online, it is still hard for them. “I’m ok with it, it’s just kind of difficult and different doing everything over Google Meet” said orchestra student Aamirah Hickman. 

Despite these difficult circumstances music students are still keeping a positive outlook. “Although COVID has clearly altered the way we think about music, we’re still creating and mastering our craft everyday. If there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that music will always be created, no matter the circumstances” said choir student Alanna Burden. 

Marching Band was also affected by COVID this year. Marching band can usually be heard at football games hyping up the crowd and keeping the energy high. When they aren’t at football games they are on the road travelling to competitions. However this year they only got to play at one football game and there were no competitions. They were able to meet for socially-distanced practices where they had to wear specialized masks so they could play without potential spreading the virus. 

Nevertheless students in marching band are happy they were able to have a season. “I wish we had a normal season, but I’m really grateful we got to have a season at all. I’ve heard of other schools that basically had to cancel their season this year” said marching band student Aleksandra Kimball. Even though it was not a normal season Aleksandra was still glad to have somewhat of a marching band experience and meet the new members.