Music in the Pandemic

Katie Bryan, Staff Writer


Music has been an escape for many during this pandemic and a way to connect with people. Social distancing precautions have made it more difficult for everyone to learn and teach music during this turbulent time. Band and choir practices are still happening in person but have been more spread out and distant than usual with the additional struggle of singing with masks, and having instrument covers when trying to learn and improve. Currently, the 8th grade and upper school musicals are on hold. The holiday concert is usually on everyone’s mind at this time of year, but because of COVID-19, there will be no live band and choir concerts. These are certainly losses but WFS has come up with creative ways to deal with these obstacles and find other ways to practice, learn and share music. 

Instead of having a holiday concert in person, the performing arts staff have decided on recordings. For homecoming this year Christopher Verry, the band teacher put together a short video of the middle school students playing ‘Let’s go friends’ out on the football field. You can find this on the Wilmington Friends instagram page. A similar solution will be applied to the holiday concert. A live zoom concert would be difficult to pull off because of lag and audio quality, so it will be recorded. Different performing groups will record the songs they have been working on and it will be made into a video for loved ones to watch at home. The upper school choir director, Margaret Anne Butterfield says that “This year it will be easier than it has ever been to see the performances.” People who couldn’t come to the concert if it was live and in person will be able to see the concert wherever

During class time students practice with one another but in a spread out space. Christopher Verry the band director says “Not having the one on one contact is my biggest challenge… it’s so spread out and not personal.” Before the upper and middle school moved to a 4 day in person schedule band and choir classes didn’t have as much time to practice together as an ensemble. Even though it’s spread out and distant the in-person classes allow the students to perform together which let’s them hear other people’s parts and get better at being a part of a performing group. “We have to wear close fitted masks that are challenging to deal with.” Hannah Carter ‘22, chamber singer, says. The students in choir have to wear masks and be spread out wherever they practice. Band students have special bags or masks for their specific instrument that limits particles from flying out of the instrument. These are necessary for covid precautions but can make practicing and teaching more difficult. “It’s difficult to see what hands are doing and that is difficult when teaching beginning students.” 

Independent practice and learning has become significantly more common in all classes but also in music ones. Frank Murphy ‘24 a jazz band member says, “We do more digital music creations, not only part of a band, but more individual this year.” There are more recorded assignments for individual evaluation especially for fully remote students like Murphy. In order to have time to clean and get ready for a different ensemble, many choir students have been doing theory work in between waits that they hadn’t done before the pandemic. Murphy says, “you don’t have to be in the same place to create music.” 

Musicals and other productions such as plays and improv shows seem almost impossible to perform safely but there are some ideas and tried plans. On november 21st a handful of students put on a completely virtual play Directed by Mr. Dunn called, “the importance of being Ernest” and it was a fabulous hit. The upper school musical’s start time has been pushed back because of too many complications. One idea for the musicals was to have a series of one acts that are recorded, doing an all virtual performance similar to ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’. The performing arts staff have also been considering having an outdoor performance. Nothing is decided yet but there are plenty of possibilities. Margaret Anne Butterfield the upper school chorale teacher says, “There really isn’t a guide book for this, we’re just trying things out.”

Hannah Carter ‘22 says, “To anyone who’s losing their motivation, you have to hold onto it, however long you spend playing your instrument, it’s a wonderful outlet. Music is a great way to connect with people.”