And the Beat Goes On, Pandemic or No

By JULIA WEBB ‘22 and VANIA KHAN ‘22

Virtual Marching Band Competitions

With many sports teams unable to compete in away games due to social distancing restrictions, the band had taken on virtual competitions for their marching season this year. For virtual band competitions, weekly recordings were made and submitted to be judged, with awards held on a livestream on the program FloMarching, every Saturday. 

In past years, the band has travelled to various schools to perform in front of large crowds, but with the pandemic, has been forced to remain at Edison High every week. Luckily, all friends and family were allowed to come watch the live recordings each week, allowing the band to have an audience to cheer them on as they performed their 2020 program, “Fusion.”

Another part of the marching band season that had changed was band camp, a grueling five days spent at Camp Bernie at the start of the season. Due to the coronavirus, band camp this year was reduced to five days spent practicing at Edison High. Although this setback would prove difficult, the band worked hard to maintain as normal of a band camp as possible with regards to mask and social distancing guidelines.  

“It’s weird being a tight-knit band family that has to stay six feet apart.”

KAYLA WASON ’20

Color guard captain Kayla Wason ’20, says that the new band dynamic has been odd. “It’s weird being a tight-knit band family that has to stay six feet apart,” she said. However, she is still very much grateful to have had a season this year, seeing as several other marching bands were unable to have a season at all.

Wason also said that “although we’ve had to give up many old band traditions, many new ones have started.” She explained that the band’s work ethic, energy, and bonding have remained the same as past years despite setbacks. With the season coming to an end, the band wraps up this one-of-a-kind experience with a nationals performance and prepares for the indoor percussion and indoor guard seasons (more to come on these activities). 

The EHS Marching Band performs their show “Fusion” under the Friday night lights.
Photo Credit: EHS Film Crew

Virtual Choir

The coronavirus has had a life-changing impact on the education system globally, and many subjects have been forced to adapt in the process. One aspect of the education system that has faced setbacks during the pandemic is the music department, which is a branch of education that requires direct communication and the physical assembly of students. The Edison High School Band was quick to adapt to rapidly changing situations, and the choir proved to do the same. The EHS Choir Department tackled the issue of virtual learning efficiently through the use of technology, which came in handy during such stressful times. 

The choir uses Zoom as a virtual learning platform, similar to many other subjects. However, Zoom does not seem to be as efficacious as choir classes, where students could physically interact with each other and assist each other as a team. The characteristic of togetherness is definitely an aspect of choir class that is compromised by this new online curriculum, as choir is a subject heavily reliant on collaboration.

“I do everything I can to reduce the stress…”

Mr. Kenneth Brown

Blending voices with the other students in one’s voice part and coordinating with them to create a harmonious, melodic sound is extremely important in more advanced classes such as A Cappella and Chambers choir. This activity cannot be done on virtual instruments and platforms such as Zoom, despite its many capabilities. Since choir is a subject dependent on the effort of multiple students joining forces to create art through vocalization, it cannot be accomplished to a full extent when the group is in different locations, singing through a screen.

Additionally, Zoom has the tendency to alter and distort voices, which is inconvenient when listening for note accuracy during class. An additional issue presented with using Zoom in A Cappella and Chambers choir is the difficulty in expressing musical blending, balance, interpretation and the unification of vowels, which are the essentials of these advanced music classes. 

The method used by the choir to surmount these situational obstacles is individual performance, meaning that choir students perform their vocal abilities one at a time in class. Indeed, this process calls for far greater student accountability than regular choir class, because having to sing individually demands young musicians to learn and practice music pieces with accuracy to prevent mistakes in class in front of peers. In this choral format, a student’s voice cannot be masked by louder peers, nor can it be drowned out by strong voiced musical counterparts.

“I do everything I can to reduce the stress by primarily calling on the individuals I know can handle the pressure while allowing others to send me an audio or video of them singing,” Mr. Kenneth Brown, the Choral Director of Edison High School, said. “For vocal testing, all students must submit a video of the assignment excerpt being assessed.”

Many teachers are making changes to lesson plans due to the new system of learning being implemented this year, but Brown has made large adjustments to his typical music plans, only for the comfort of his students. He knows that singing solo can be anxiety-ridden for many talented music students as they do not enjoy calling attention to themselves. For this reason, Brown has been very lenient with students sending voice recordings for homework and accepting vocal testing submitted after school hours.

Brown explained that he continues to seek new online devices that will help students remain attentive throughout the duration of class, since concentrating on an abstract field of study such as music can be quite difficult when one is sitting behind a screen and not in a disciplined, musical environment. He believes that despite all virtual setbacks, his students deserve credit for showing up to class everyday and participating with a smile on their faces.

One concern, however, of many students and teachers, is whether musical courses such as choir will remain intact in the face of adversities such as a pandemic, which is keeping children apart and away from singing. The survival of certain abstract subjects that rely on physical interaction seem to be at risk. The Edison District has already pre-decided that all national competitions are strictly limited to virtual platforms. Therefore, the annual national music competition that choir students eagerly await all year is unfortunately cancelled.

However, for the time being, the students and music directors are doing a phenomenal job of creating an interactive and lively musical atmosphere through Zoom, and hopefully, after the end of this ongoing epidemic, choir students will have the opportunity to rejoice and reap the fruits of all their hard work from the current school year!