The Gustavian Weekly

Music ensembles at Gustavus adapt to in-person - The Gustavian Weekly

By Emily VanGorder - Staff Writer | October 9, 2020 | Variety

Music programs at Gustavus have undergone many changes to meet COVID-19 requirements, including adjusting to online and now in-person classes. During the start of the semester when the majority of students were online, members of the orchestra worked on composing an etude for their instrument, while choir students have been preparing for Christmas in Christ Chapel since the beginning of the semester.
“A lot of what I’d normally do in terms of looking for music and working on planning for performances and things like that has gone into planning safety, and I think we’ve done a really good job. All of this has very little to do with music itself but about keeping everyone safe so that we can continue to do this,” Gustavus Wind Symphony Conductor Dr. Heidi Miller said.
“I had the behind-the-scenes preparing musical instruction part, but I also had the burden of figuring out how to deliver that in an online way…we had to make some changes to how the instruction worked for online ensembles and that took quite a bit of extra work…[but] it was successful,” Gustavus Choir Conductor Dr. Brandon Dean said.
In addition to figuring out instruction and social distancing, the choir’s permanent rehearsal space has to be set up and taken down every time the choir rehearses.
Members of the symphony and orchestra are spaced out in ten-foot cubes in Alumni Hall for rehearsals and are encouraged to fill the furthest seats in order to avoid having to come into contact with numerous people. Each group has been split into two ‘pods,’ which each have rehearsal two times for half an hour each week as opposed to the normal hour and a half.
Splitting into pods has allowed for sanitization and air circulation between the groups.
Members of the symphony and orchestra are also wearing special ‘musicians’ masks,’ created by Gustavus alumna Morgan Fuller, who has her own business through Etsy.
“They’re funny because they kind of make the musicians look like muppets when they’re not playing their instruments, but it was really great that we were able to get [them],” Miller said.
In addition to wearing masks, flute players have special flute shields and brass players have puppy pads to empty their spit valves onto.
The orchestra will be having a concert on Nov. 7, in which groups will come to Christ Chapel and have their performances recorded. The videos will then be spliced together into one cohesive recording. It is estimated that the recording will be available within 24 hours of the performance.
Choir students have spent all year building up to the Christmas in Christ Chapel (C in CC)performance, during both online and in-person classes. Students learned their music pieces online and are now finishing and beginning to refine their pieces in person. Rehearsals are being held in Christ Chapel, the Beck Hall atrium and outside, as weather permits.
Choir members are spaced eight feet apart and wear specifically designed singing masks during rehearsals. While the masks are expensive, the Gustavus Advancement Team stepped in and made sure that students did not have to pay for them.
“Everybody was very flexible and rolled with [online courses]. Now that we’re in person, I think there’s a sense of anxiety that meets excitement. It’s good to be in community again, but there are some real challenges to staying safe,” Dean said.
This year’s Christmas in Christ Chapel performance has been moved to the week after fall break instead of the traditional first week of December to accommodate this semester’s altered schedule.
As with the orchestral performance, C in CC will be pre-recorded with no audience by Heroic Productions, an event technology service that has been providing Gustavus with lighting and video work for C in CC performances for almost a decade. The finished performance will be available to watch on Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
“It will only be offered online, but the unique talent challenges have also allowed us to do some things that we couldn’t normally do. I won’t spoil what all those things are, but we’ve re-looked at how we make music together and how we collaborate with our graphic designers and our alumni, and we’re going to have something special for the community,” Dean said.
“I would want our students to continue to grow and learn and be artists and stretch their minds through what’s possible through artistic expression,” Conductor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra Dr. James Patrick Miller said.
Dr. James Miller is on sabbatical this semester, continuing his work writing a teacher’s pedagogical assistant to conducting.
Dr. Heidi Miller has taken over his position as conductor of both the orchestra and symphony in his absence.
“When you care so deeply about something that gets taken away from you for a period, it can be a real wakeup call… I think we’re all learning that we do place a high value in what we do together and that we won’t be taking it for granted. Ultimately we’re learning a lot about perseverance and flexibility, and how to live in community with each other in a meaningful way,” Dean said.

Post a Comment

It is the goal of The Gustavian Weekly to spark a rich and meaningful conversation of varying viewpoints with readers. By submitting a comment you grant The Gustavian Weekly a perpetual license to reproduce your words, full name and website on this website and in its print edition. By submitting a comment, you also agree to not hold The Gustavian Weekly or Gustavus Adolphus College liable for anything relating to your comment, and agree to take full legal responsibility for your comment and to indemnify and hold harmless The Gustavian Weekly and Gustavus Adolphus College from any claims, lawsuits, judgments, legal fees and costs that it may incur on account of your comment or in enforcing this agreement. Comments that pass through our automatic spam filter are posted immediately. Comments that do not include the full first and last name of the visitor, include links or content relating to entities that do not directly relate to the content of the article, include profanity, or include copyrighted material may be removed from the site. The Weekly's Web Editor and Editor-in-Chief also reserve the right to remove comments for other reasons at their discretion. Criticism of The Weekly is welcome in the comment section of the website, and those wishing to express criticism of The Weekly are also encouraged to contact the Editor-in-Chief or submit a letter to the editor. Please be respectful, and thank you for your contribution!