Band conducting limited in-person rehearsals after start of virtual school year


Photo courtesy Anvita Ukidwe

Coppell High School band students are currently taking music classes from home with limited in-person rehearsals. For many students, the virtual set up consists of devices with their music, Zoom screens and instruments. Photo courtesy Anvita Ukidwe

Akhila Gunturu, CHS9 Editor

Since March, the Coppell Band has been conducting its program virtually due to COVID-19. Now, with the start of the 2020-21 school year, band has continued to carry out the program online, and as of two weeks ago, has begun limited in-person rehearsals. 

These in-person rehearsals started Aug. 24 with each day consisting of rehearsal from 6:30-8 p.m. for varsity marching band members. Students are required to fill out a pre-rehearsal health screening form and wear a mask throughout the entire rehearsal. Students have been assigned 15 feet by 15 feet spaces by name and are not to leave them unless absolutely necessary. The rehearsals have been focusing on the more visual performance with no instruments, such as marching, movement and concepts.

“I think [what they’re doing] is very safe,” CHS junior  trumpet player Sharan Sethi said. “[Coppell Band director Gerry Miller] and the whole director team [have] kept everyone’s opinions in their mind and worked accordingly..” 

From Aug. 3-11, band conducted its annual summer camp entirely over Zoom. Each day was split into blocks, beginning with a meditation block and separate sessions based off of instruments, and followed by band values, dance, show music and enrichment blocks. While previous years’ camps involved a much heavier emphasis on the physical marching aspect due to the onset of the football season, the delaying of football season allowed this year’s camp to offer activities during the enrichment block such as discussions about music career, music therapy, composing and conduction as well as appearances from guest speakers. 

“[We incorporated] all of these things to have our students engage in things that were interesting to them that we often didn’t have time to do in the summer,” Miller said. “I’d like to find a way to keep that in our calendar. [Previous camps] were different in that our effort as a staff was more physical. This was more mental. But at the same time, I feel like we grew equal amounts, we grew in other areas. We took steps in new directions we hadn’t before.” 

For the past three weeks, band has continued conducting classes over Zoom in a format similar to summer band camp, with class periods split into blocks by section. Each section goes through  music, visual, dance and fundamental blocks. 

“Having band in the middle of your day, especially because we have dance and music involved, [is] a nice break from sitting down and staring at your computer,” CHS junior mellophone section leader Anvita Ukidwe said. 

For the directors, the virtual set-up consists of an iPad with music on it, computer screens with students over Zoom, a piano and a microphone, allowing for there to be multiple audio inputs to help people on the call hear better. Students will sometimes be asked to lead the group individually, and in that way, a sample of students will be heard. However, virtual band does not allow for students to hear and play with each other at once, and while the physical aspect is limited, there are other challenges that rise with an online band. 

“[Zoom] does take away the whole community aspect of band, but I guess there’s nothing that can be done about that,” Ukidwe said. “Honestly, doing virtual band has made band less stressful than it would’ve been in person because it takes away a lot of the time commitments, but at the same time, there’s different stresses involved. With online band, you’re responsible for your own self development and motivation, which can be very stressful at times.”

For the directors, the biggest priority is the social and emotional health of students. 

“Many [students] have been in essential isolation for the better part of six months,” Miller said. “I fully recognize right now that our students need a sense of social and emotional growth. [It’s important to scaffold] our students back into the rehearsal, slowly taking that time to introduce them to what it means to be around people. It’s my sincerest hope that the world looks at all of the COVID distractions and we fall back on the arts, via painting, playing music or writing, that [people] found a connection to the arts and that arts helped carry [them] through the most challenging times. It’s our time to shine, and I hope the arts have helped our students get through the pain and frustration of isolation stronger.”


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