Band students safely return to McIntyre Hall


Abigail Stowell

Music classes hope to be a role-model for what safe learning can look like across the university.

Libby Williams, Staff Reporter

After two quarters of campus-wide online learning, performance based music classes are transitioning back to an in-person format. This shift comes with many safety regulations to ensure performers stay healthy, and these classes can provide a “first look” for the rest of the school at what pandemic safe learning looks like. 

Junior Cameron Olsen is a student employee in the music building, and also plays percussion in symphonic winds. His job mostly consists of making programs and posters, as well as helping students who call the office with questions. It also meant he was one of the first to hear about the shift back to in-person classes this quarter, which was something he had been looking forward to. 

“Being in-person is more of a religious experience. It’s better to be in band, versus just learning about band,” Olsen said. 

While he said he understands why classes needed to be online to ensure safety, he also said it meant sacrificing a lot of the social aspect that comes with performing.

In order for classes to be allowed to run, many precautions have to be taken by faculty and staff, especially for band classes where most instruments are played by mouth. Bell covers are placed on all wind instruments, players sit at least 6 feet away from each other and spit is emptied onto precut absorbent pads. 

Olsen said he recognizes that there’s still a level of risk that comes with performing in a group setting, but he’s still happy to be back. 

“I would rather be able to play with a little risk, than not at all with no risk,” Olsen said.

Sophomore Gabe Bradley is a saxophone player in a symphonic band. He, as well as anyone who plays a wind instrument, has to wear a special mask when he plays with a hole cut out for his mouthpiece. He said it messes with his intonation a bit, but anything beats band in a Zoom class.

“I’m a musician, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to pay,” Bradley said. “I’m willing to make sacrifices to play good music with people.” 

Bradley said that even though it’s only been two quarters of online learning, he still notices a level of disconnect between his classmates.

“Musicians tend to be social creatures. It’s how we make good music,” Bradley said. “That level of collaboration isn’t as automatic as it used to be, so breaking down that barrier is going to be really, really nice.”

Sophomore Bronson Moreno is a trumpet player in symphonic winds. He’s also excited to be back, but said that “given the circumstances,” there were positive aspects to online learning last quarter. He said he especially enjoyed getting to hear from composers of the pieces he and his classmates play, who would often make guest appearances. 

“Nothing will ever replace live performance, and being in-person playing this music,” Moreno said. “But as long as you look at it through a positive lens, like ‘okay, here’s where we’re at, and these are the circumstances that we’re in …’ they’ve provided us with the opportunity to meet with these composers, which we might not have had the opportunity to do before.”

Moreno said he is applying the same positive outlook to the restrictions being enforced this quarter. He said many students had to buy instrument specific PPE, much of which is just specially shaped bags. 

“The tuba ones are ridiculous, you could fit a person in them,” Moreno said. “And the bassoon one is the funniest because it’s literally a body bag that you stick your hands in.”

Moreno happens to be in the same class as Olsen but said the group has been split into three “sub-groups” to ensure safety. Moreno said he’s hopeful the groups will be merged again in the future, but for the time being is happy to be back. 

“It was familiar but also wildly unfamiliar, because it’s really different in the way that we rehearse, with everybody’s bell covers and all the distance, it’s [a] really different experience,” Moreno said. “But at the same time, it’s an incredibly familiar thing, and so it was pretty easy to get back into the swing of it.”