It was the first time that many of the students in the Edmond Memorial Band had come together to practice on Thursday evening. The pressure was on as it was only 30 minutes before the winter concert.
“There is no blueprint for this year,” said Jeff Jahnke, the band director at Edmond Memorial High School. “They did not teach us about pandemics in our college music education class.”
Due to social distancing, the woodwinds had to be separated from the brass and percussion sections during practices leading up to the concert, but Jahnke said the students made the best of their circumstances.
The Winter Concert was held in the Edmond Memorial Gym to allow for social distancing and at the end of each band’s performance, everybody left the room for a cleaning crew to spray and wipe down surfaces.
“We are grateful that we are still able to do what we can do,” Jahnke said.
Despite the challenges, four students made it into the Oklahoma All-State Ensembles this year, along with around 13 making it to the all-region band.
While the Edmond Memorial bands had a socially-distanced concert, the men’s choir students in the Edmond Memorial Men’s Choir had to cancel theirs due to inclement weather, but plan on having a spring concert. But that did not stop them from continuing to practice at half capacity due to the A and B student schedule.
“We still sound like a full choir, but we are still missing being a full choir,” said William Loughridge, a senior at Edmond Memorial. There are around 50 in the men’s choir alone. “I cannot wait until we are back to normal,” he said.
All across the district, students are adapting as fine arts teachers go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that practicing and performing continue, despite the pandemic.
For the choirs, they can only practice in the same room for a limited time and then transition to a new room. This allows any air particles to dissipate before the next class occurs.
The rehearsal rooms are even socially distanced and masks are always required.
“Our students continue to do a great job,” said Wes Singleton, the choral director at Edmond Memorial. “The parents have also been a great support this year.”
This year has presented unique challenges to playing wind instruments as Covid precautions are taken to ensure a safe surrounding. The most notable changes include spacing students at six-foot increments, placing bell covers at the end of every wind instrument, or soaking pads on the floor to allow saliva to be soaked up from the instrument’s water key.
“It has been a challenge for us all,” Jahnke said.
Jahnke stays on top of the medical research reading articles on reducing aerosols when playing instruments. He understands that even though the pandemic had disrupted everything, his students yearn to be together and express themselves with their art.
“Our kids need the experience and doing it safely is my number one priority,” Jahnke said.