Jazz, guitar, choir ready to perform this semester – The Guilfordian
From public performances to ensemble lessons, music is an integral part of Guilford College, and the 12-week session promises to be alive. Guilford College offers a variety of music courses, ranging from basic music theory to performance studies in saxophone, harp, and more. These classes can include or result in performances both in college and away from home, but with COVID-19 and its associated restrictions, some music classes have had to make major adjustments.
The pandemic restrictions were not in favor of music in Guilford, as they forced online lessons and placed restrictions on in-person play, leading to interesting methods of teaching and performance. Some courses were easier to adapt than others.
“We’re a pretty tech-savvy bunch of people,” said Charles A Dana. Music teacher Kami Rowan. Virtual instruction and performance isn’t a foreign concept in the guitar world, and Rowan (who had a few virtual students herself before the pandemic) was still able to teach and compose pieces with her students.
The Guilford College Choir has taken a similar approach. Taking advantage of technology, Wendy Looker, choir director at Guilford, was able to put together unique performances using recordings, even one featuring choir alumni who sent their parts virtually for the start. . While nothing can replace the sense of community the choir creates, she said, it was certainly better than nothing and it made for some interesting projects.
The Jazz Ensemble, led by Drew P. Hays, had a hard time but managed to get by, and they were able to play anyway.
“(It was) amazing that we were able to do this…” Hays said. “But we weren’t able to do the thing like we usually would.”
Jazz music is very dependent on the subtle interaction between the performers. Rehearsing on Dana’s stage with the horn players 15 to 30 feet apart from each other made it difficult to synchronize with each other. They may have performed outside of some, but jazz had one of the most difficult times to practice and perform during the pandemic.
All courses have tentative plans for performances throughout the year. Rowan is preparing some of her students for the American Guitar Orchestra Ensemble, a project she created with an alum, which will be performing this summer. The choir planned a three-way collaborative performance with Exigence Vocal Ensemble (described on their website as “a professional vocal ensemble showcasing art within black and Latin communities ”) and the first choir of the Lutheran church. The Jazz Combo includes both an outdoor performance in the middle of the semester and an indoor performance towards the end of the semester.
At the start of 12 weeks, some courses are ready to incorporate in-person learning with scalable restrictions.
“We have it easier, we don’t blow on a wind instrument… we don’t sing,” Rowan said. For guitarists in guitar ensembles, the restrictions on COVID should not hamper them too much in practice and performance. A mask only covers your mouth and nose, so their ability to play is not impaired, and they are normally not too close to each other anyway.
Additionally, Rowan has extra confidence in their safety. “I’m really close to my guys,” she said. “I know the immunization status of my children… we are tight. Rowan sees her students five hours a week and is their counselor, so she knows that the whole is vaccinated. “We’re going to have a set this year.”
The students of the choir are not so close to their instructor. The choir, as a 1 credit elective course taking place during collaboration time, has a wide variety of participating students. From the average Guilfordian to student-athletes to the occasional Early College student, the choir is a microcosm of Guilford.
Nevertheless, the choir seems just as prepared. Looker is “ready to rehearse with everyone in the auditorium (Dana)”.
A massive auditorium with 900 seats, spacing won’t be a problem. The masks will no longer be as long as they are needed, as the choir will be equipped with singer masks. These are specially designed masks for singers with extra space. For the choir, “the big question is the audience,” Looker said.
These scalable restrictions could be a boon for the Jazz Combo, as close play spaces are their strong suit. They did not have a single COVID transmission of a repeat and sometimes used specialized PPE like bells and horn masks. Being in Dana certainly helped, but the hope is that they can move into the choir room as it’s a smaller space with better acoustics for the student musicians that can be ventilated.
For Hays, his goal is clear. “How can we ensure the safety of the public and of our musicians while preserving artistic integrity? Hays said. While pandemic restrictions have made playing difficult, jazz musicians have, and Hays “won’t sacrifice safety.”
There is also planned a cumulative performance at the end of the semester with a guitar ensemble, the Guilford College choir and a jazz ensemble. The plan is tentative, as COVID has been anything but predictable, but as it stands, the performance would take place in the Carnegie Hall in December.
It would also be after the College’s vaccination mandate, so hopefully with higher vaccination numbers some restrictions will be more flexible. With vaccines finally available and underway, the pandemic appears to be fading, and as virtual learning, mask warrants and social distancing rules are rolled back, it looks like the music in Guilford is about to kick in. prosper.