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The Effect of the Pandemic on LHS Music

Update: On October 27th, the LHS Music Program will have its annual chamber concert, and will welcome parents as spectators for the first time in 20 months

Of all the subjects that had to adjust to remote learning, maybe music departments everywhere had the toughest adjustment of them all. Groups, choral and instrumental, dedicated to playing together had to do so separately. When they were able to be together, they were six feet apart, in masks, and whenever possible, outdoors.  

This year, of course, things are better. The main difference is that everyone is in school and in person.  LHS Music Department Chair Ms. Kayla Werlin agrees and is excited that LHS is on the right track back to regularity: “We are all permitted to sing and play indoors. We’re planning a calendar for the year that is much closer to normal.” 

She comments there are indeed still some challenges, such as the use of masks, which may be more of an issue to the band and choral groups, as well as limits regarding live audiences. Students in band and chorus are to wear their masks at all times unless playing their instruments, while it’s still undecided how many people can be part of a live audience, or whether only students will be able to attend. 

Last year, to work around this issue, they collaborated with LCTV, who provided a platform for musicians to showcase their work to the public and bring people together.  “We had virtual concerts on LCTV throughout the year,” Ms. Werlin said.  “There was a night when they live streamed and people could be on together … so it did feel like there was a sense of togetherness there. We’re very, very grateful that they helped us with that.”

Despite the collaboration, there is still some worry regarding student interest now.  The music program did its best to keep students engaged, however, the department’s teachers feel that some have lost touch with what it feels like to play with others. 

Ms. Werlin said, “The pandemic came at a time when there was already a deepening divide between music makers and music consumers. I want to reinforce the idea that everyone can make music, literally find their voices, and experience joy and self-expression in the process.”

 She expresses that there is a special connection and sense of community that some might have lost, and consequently some of their motivation, during the pandemic.  Ms. Werlin says, “It’s hard to know how to put into words, but for those of us that experience it, there’s such an incredible feeling when you’re in a room and music with other people.  But when you’re not doing it, it’s almost like you don’t know what it was.  So I think that a lot of people have forgotten what role that can play in their lives.”  

LHS Choral Groups at last year’s only in-person concert

Playing online was a substantially different experience than in person.  Says senior Cole Haag, a trumpeter in Wind Ensemble, “The smaller class size due to the number of people at home kept us from experiencing what playing in an ensemble is about, and discouraged people from continuing with music. If you were at home last year, you were muted and playing by yourself.”  

Another senior, cellist Alex Lam, said, “The pandemic definitely made orchestra challenging, especially since playing virtually as a group was difficult.  But, I was really impressed with how [music teacher Dr. Arthur Thovmasian] was able to overcome these challenges and keep us playing throughout the year.  I’m glad we had the chance to play a final concert outdoors in the spring.”  

Regardless of the negatives, there still was a silver lining to the pandemic. Ms. Werlin feels that people don’t take for granted what we have now as much anymore, and appreciate what we can do now that other past solutions such as Zoom couldn’t quite replicate.  Students who also needed that individual practice time received more through the pandemic.  

Now that parameters have loosened a bit, rehearsals and performances are now much more possible.  Ms. Werlin is happy to announce that in-person concerts will undoubtedly happen this year.

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