Band Director Scott Weber watches the live performance band from the viewers seats Tuesday on the Mount Vernon Excessive College performing arts heart. “Anyone within the arts has needed to reinvent the way you train. It’s such an expressive type of schooling — rather a lot completely different than math or English,” stated Weber. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Welcome to the world of highschool bands within the pandemic: Masks with flaps. Bell covers for brass devices. Pet pads for spit rags. Marching bands that don’t march. Live performance bands with canceled concert events.
Pivoting is a trademark of marching routines, however since March 2020, bands and band administrators within the Hall have been pivoting in methods which can be something however routine. Each day brings improvisation.
Sophomore Laila Moellering rehearses Tuesday with the live performance band whereas enjoying with a masks made for wind instrument musicians at Mount Vernon Excessive College. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Washington Excessive, Iowa Metropolis Excessive, Mount Vernon Excessive and Prairie Excessive colleges all have 100 or extra college students in band. Conserving them engaged, related and working towards turned essential in the course of the first six to 9 months of the pandemic, earlier than they may tiptoe again into bodily distanced out of doors and indoor rehearsals and performances. Some band college students and lecturers nonetheless aren’t assembly in-person, since on-line studying stays an possibility at many colleges. Contest entries, together with All-State, moved to recorded submissions despatched to on-line portals.
However all 4 colleges have spring performances within the works, and final fall mounted abbreviated soccer reveals on their dwelling turf after attempting to carry modified, socially distanced out of doors rehearsals. The primary day of Prairie’s camp ended shortly earlier than the derecho hit final summer time. Storm injury additionally shut down Washington’s rehearsals.
Metropolis Excessive organized a volunteer soccer pep band on the blacktop exterior the tip zone. In Cedar Rapids, Washington, Kennedy and Jefferson highs every performed for one in every of their very own video games at Kingston Stadium. Prairie carried out at two dwelling video games, with an meant third present rained out. Mount Vernon Excessive performed at three dwelling video games and at an open rehearsal beforehand, which turned emotional when the dad and mom and friends within the stands gave them a standing ovation.
In between fall and spring, the band administrators had to determine a rehearsal mannequin, classes and expanded instruction, together with in-depth research of musical kinds, composers and listening workouts — which they stated has enriched the coed expertise.
All the native band administrators had been capable of hold their full-time assignments. Aaron Ottmar, director of bands at Iowa Metropolis Excessive, noticed social media posts about administrators in different components of the nation being reassigned to show in numerous tutorial areas or having their applications minimize, however he hasn’t heard of that taking place in Iowa.
Trumpet gamers utilizing bell covers rehearse Tuesday with the remainder of the live performance band at Mount Vernon Excessive College. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
This disruption has been “exhausting” for lecturers and college students, stated Scott Weber, 48, of Mount Vernon, the district’s eighth-grade and high-school band director.
“Anyone within the arts has needed to reinvent the way you train. It’s such an expressive type of schooling — rather a lot completely different than math or English,” stated Weber, who’s in his sixth yr at Mount Vernon and his twentieth yr as a band director. “It’s positively opened our eyes to what the potential is for how one can actually attain college students, since you needed to do some various things to make issues occur.
“However I believe our children are stronger, I believe our lecturers are stronger due to what we’ve needed to endure. No less than for myself, I gained’t take numerous issues as a right as we transfer out of this.
“And I do know we’re not carried out,” he stated, “however these moments if you’re within the stands and watching different bands carry out, otherwise you’re working with a scholar and also you’re working with different colleagues, it causes us to pause for a second and notice how fortunate we actually are to have the ability to do what we do on daily basis.”
Even when on daily basis has been so completely different and so uncertain.
When the pandemic hit, “every thing stopped,” stated Jim Miller, 62, of Hiawatha, one in every of two band administrators at Cedar Rapids Washington, the place he has taught for 20 years. “My spouse likes to child me that `You got here dwelling for spring break and by no means went again.’ ”
Jim Miller, band director, Cedar Rapids Washington Excessive College
He did return, for one ultimate flip in a yr like no different, earlier than he retires this June after a 41-year profession.
“It’s definitely not what I had anticipated,” he stated of shifting to on-line instruction. “We needed to be taught the expertise to do it. I am not used to educating this manner, however all of the lecturers, at the very least in my constructing, have turn into very adept on the Google Classroom Suite. And everyone knows how you can sign up to group chats and every kind of issues to show in that format, as a result of that is the place the youngsters are.”
A live performance band member rests a masks on the music stand whereas enjoying in rehearsal Tuesday at Mount Vernon Excessive College. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
When colleges final yr went into lockdown, it could have been simple to place band on pause, too, however the administrators stress the worth of music in scholar growth, and commenced reaching out to their college students on digital platforms to maintain them related to this system and to one another.
“Throughout a time like this, the humanities have actually helped our college students to essentially really feel in a greater state emotionally than in the event that they didn’t have the humanities of their lives,” stated Ottmar, 28, of Iowa Metropolis, a six-year instructor in his fourth yr as director of bands at his alma mater, Iowa Metropolis Excessive.
Aaron Ottmar, director of bands, Iowa Metropolis Excessive College
“There’s simply a lot about what we try this’s collaborative, the place each particular person has a component in what the entire product is,” he stated. “Additionally, it’s a pure soothing, therapeutic, emotional side to their lives, because it supplies one thing different curricular areas might not. It appeals to a unique facet of your mind — the much less analytical facet of your mind — and it additionally appeals to the feelings inside your coronary heart extra so than another curricular pursuits.
“Clearly, it could have been simple to say, hey, we’re not going to do as a lot this yr, however at Metropolis Excessive, we actually needed to take the mindset of doing no matter we will to make significant experiences for our college students.”
Miller echoed that.
“There have been tons of research which have been carried out over the period of my profession, and so they all level to the way it helps them to turn into nicely rounded and helps them have a various curiosity in studying,” Miller stated.
“After which there are exacting research that present that (music) completely helps studying, particularly math. There is a correlation between math and music, as you would possibly count on, and in our college, our philosophy … is that we wish the youngsters to be concerned in as a lot stuff as they are often concerned in. We discover that they are higher tied to their faculty in the event that they’re in any exercise, and naturally at my finish, we’re pushing the band.”
Sophomore Margaret Participant pulls her masks up Tuesday after enjoying her half on the French horn throughout rehearsal at Mount Vernon Excessive College. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Discovering their footing was powerful final spring and summer time — and even into the autumn — as they confronted so many uncertainties about after they can be returning to highschool, rehearsals and performances.
All of those band administrators inspired their college students to maintain working towards their devices throughout lockdown, however they couldn’t rehearse as ensembles on-line due to the sound delay. Turning on their pc cameras and even attending digital periods had been non-compulsory, too.
“The identical youngsters that will usually apply at dwelling continued to apply,” stated Deron Jimmerson, 45, of Cedar Rapids, co-director of bands at Prairie Excessive.
Deron Jimmerson, co-director of bands, Cedar Rapids Prairie Excessive College
“However it’s exhausting. For a lot of youngsters, the most important motive they’re in band or choir is due to the interplay with different college students — the sensation of performing in an ensemble and even rehearsing in an ensemble,” he stated.
“While you’re dwelling alone, that’s a tough factor to recreate, and it was tougher to remain motivated to apply perhaps, since you didn’t have new music to be taught or a efficiency arising. For essentially the most half, our children did a superb job of persevering by way of that, and attempting to apply new issues.”
Some additionally branched out whereas staying at dwelling.
“We talked to youngsters that discovered new devices or spent extra time studying guitar, (which) they may not usually do,” stated Jimmerson, who’s in his eleventh yr at Prairie and twenty fourth yr as a band director. “We’ve heard from some college students which have tried writing music, and discovered extra about recording.
“We simply tried to essentially encourage them to do no matter they’ll to remain related that approach — particularly final yr, when all this primary occurred. There have been numerous digital concert events and recording issues taking place,” he stated. “We tried to share as a lot of that as we may with them, so they may hold seeing music and being impressed to coming again in some unspecified time in the future.”
Most faculties reopened final fall with hybrid studying, alternating in-person and at-home attendance. That meant band apply on any given day may have a wildly disproportionate variety of our bodies and devices in socially distanced chairs.
As extra college students got here again to in-person studying, Prairie, Mount Vernon and Metropolis excessive colleges have been capable of rehearse of their massive efficiency areas, making it simpler to maintain college students distanced and to plan for upcoming concert events in Might and June.
Solely The Revolutionists jazz band is assembly in particular person recurrently at Cedar Rapids Washington, because the ensemble is small and the band room is massive, stated Miller, whose colleague, Joel Nagel, directs that group. However a number of effective arts organizations will provide up brief performances throughout Washington’s in style Frankfurter Pageant, slated for Might 13 within the faculty’s courtyard.
Now the administrators are looking forward to subsequent yr, after they anticipate being again within the colleges. They’re anticipating to plan soccer halftime reveals, compete and host contests — and rebuild abilities in any respect ranges, particularly with the band college students within the decrease grades, who’ve missed a lot as they’re simply getting began.
“It would take some time to really feel like we’re again to the place had been a couple of years in the past,” Jimmerson stated. “We’re actually attempting to give attention to what we will do with the youngsters in entrance of us every day. You at all times have that long-term imaginative and prescient — you’re at all times trying ahead. However we’re going to do the very best we will right this moment with the time we now have right this moment for these youngsters. That’s all we will do.”
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Mount Mercy band Director Steve Stickney leads the Mount Vernon live performance band for a workshop Tuesday on the performing arts heart in Mount Vernon. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)