Playing in a Pandemic

A once-united ensemble has been forced apart. Despite this, the program continues on.


Jessica Velcheck, Bear Hub Staff

The East Brunswick Honors Wind Ensemble contains some of the school’s best concert band musicians, and historically would meet for class everyday in D-22. With this new breed of schooling, however, comes the need to adapt. For all-virtual students, this looks like individual work and a crucial placement of trust to practice material. Using a Microsoft Teams link, everyone reports for attendance before dispersing to complete the day’s goals. A website called MusicFirst is utilized to assist in learning, with boundless resources to help refine one’s skills.

For hybrid students? In-person playing comes with some extra steps.

I reported to D-22 first thing in the morning and found myself in the largest class of my schedule, a grand total of seven instrumentalists spread six feet from each other, Mr. Toth at the helm. After the online meeting was dismissed, most of the time would be spent setting ourselves up for future classes. A nervous silence weighted the air. Mr. Toth would spend the next ten minutes or so meticulously cutting individual holes into disposable masks for playing, offering research-based protection. Black cloths were fastened to the opening of each instrument with binder clips to mitigate spread of vapor. Only then could we finally turn to the material given to us on our Lenovos.

Attempting to play with these new safeguards proved initially awkward; a squawk of a clarinet held testament to just how unused to this new level of air resistance we were. Me and two others attempted to play one of the songs together before bursting out laughing. On a second try, the other half of the assembled group joined in without warning. The first week-or-so of school, the band room had been closed; just like that, music filled the air of D-22 again.

It is tough to base the trajectory of the course from one in-person day, but one thing is for sure; this is the new normal for now.