High School Music Program Adapts to COVID-19 Restrictions

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This year, for the first time, music department concerts will be held virtually. This image shows a past year’s concert that was held in person.

Zara Rahman, Contributing Writer

Due to the restrictions for social distancing set by the New York State Education Department, new strategies have been developed and employed to help music instruction continue during the pandemic. 

For students who are in school, orchestras have to space six feet apart and chorus and band have to space twelve feet apart, according to Mr. Taborsky, the Monroe-Woodbury Music Coordinator. Strategies that have been developed include remote-only chorus rehearsals and lessons, interactive supplementary materials and presentations for students and parents to review and explore, and the sanitization of classroom instruments for in-person students.

“Our music staff is resourceful, engaging, and hard at work keeping the music going in Monroe-Woodbury,” said Mr. Taborsky. “The teachers at Monroe-Woodbury are accustomed to overcoming difficulties while maintaining high standards for their students.” 

Some challenges the department faces are that students are unable to play or sing with the entire ensemble and, because some students are at home while others are at school, instrumentals are often not properly balanced or different vocal parts cannot be heard. 

“Speaking for myself, I feel a sense of comfort and acceptance knowing that we, as a department and as a district, are helping the greater cause by following social distancing and limiting physical interaction,” said Mr. Taborsky. “That being said, I will not deny how much I miss working with students in the in-person setting.”

The music department has been preparing for new virtual events and concerts.

Teachers will be performing a variety of genres at the 31st annual Monroe-Woodbury Faculty Concert on November 28 which can be viewed on the district’s YouTube Channel.

Additionally, the chorus, band, and orchestra are preparing their first-ever virtual concert. 

Sophomore Visakhi Miriyapalli, who plays violin in the Symphonic Orchestra, said “The main obstacle I believe I have faced is improving on my flaws and correcting my mistakes. Although you can practice as much as you want, I think the best way to get better at something is to receive feedback from others.” 

Students are not playing or singing together as a group which gives them a new and different experience with music. Teachers and students are becoming more adept at using technology and communicating in other non-traditional ways.

“Personally, learning music through technology and social distancing has definitely made me feel more disconnected than I usually feel,” said Miriyapalli. “The group of friends I have in orchestra is like my second family. When we play together, it’s very fun and carefree and everyone enjoys it which makes it an amazing experience. When you play through a computer screen, you just don’t have that same feeling. It’s almost as if you’re in another world, unable to reach everyone else.” 

Sophomore Madeline Williams, who plays cello in the Symphonic Orchestra, said, “I still have not completely adjusted to learning music this way and being apart from the whole orchestra. To be quite honest, I am not sure that I ever will completely adjust. My favorite part of being in orchestra is the sense of family that we have together and being able to create beautiful pieces of music.” 

It has been difficult for students to stay motivated and continue to improve as musicians during the pandemic. This has been a difficult way for students to learn because it is harder to communicate with each other and to correct their mistakes. 

“Without school and staying at home, I was able to focus more on music and I was able to practice more than I usually do,” said Miriyapalli. “Throughout the year, many people mostly just play the songs you have to play in school, but with everyone being quarantined, I was able to learn a few songs of my choosing which I enjoyed very much.”

Students have been able to ask their teachers questions and continue to receive feedback during the pandemic. Junior Varsha Jegan said, “One aspect that is beneficial, though, is that we now have smaller lesson groups, which allows us to get more feedback from Mr. Champlin on our playing.” 

Jegan said it is more difficult learning music this way because you aren’t able to hear the other instruments playing, which makes it harder to match the pace and fully immerse yourself in the music. 

“Honestly, it is less motivating because you miss out on the feeling of being part of a full orchestra with everyone making music together,” said Jegan.