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Garage Bands

University ensembles hold socially distanced rehearsals in the Red Hawk Deck and other outdoor locations

Posted in: Arts, Homepage News

a student walks in a parking garage with tuba and music stand
The Symphonic Band, Wind Symphony, and University Singers all held their first rehearsals of the fall 2020 semester in the Red Hawk Deck on August 27, 2020.

After nearly six months of silence, the Red Hawk Deck is alive with a new sound – music. For musicians who have been singing or playing instruments in isolation all that time, the in-person rehearsals that began the first week of school in the parking garage made for a  meaningful – and at times, emotional – start to the school year.

“Not having played music with another human being in six months and then finally playing with all my peers made me cry during the first piece we played,” said Sabrina Isaac, a junior Clarinet Performance major, describing the feeling during Leonard Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide.

“The experience was quite overwhelming,” said sophomore Music Education major Ryan Branco, a trumpeter with the Wind Symphony. “It’s quite breathtaking to see how easy it is to pick up where you last left off.”

And that they did.

The Symphonic Band, Wind Symphony and University Singers began rehearsals in the deck on August 27 and were greeted by College of the Arts Dean Daniel Gurskis and John J. Cali School of Music Director Anthony Mazzocchi, who explained that rehearsing in the garage, and other outdoor spaces, is part of a science-based effort to allow performance major students and ensembles – from music to dance to theater – to enjoy safe, socially distanced in-person practice and instruction. Many of the 8% of classes that are fully in-person this fall are in the performing arts.

“We are doing this the right way,” Mazzocchi said.

The rehearsal for the University Singers on the 7th floor of the deck was set up so that Director of Choral Activities Heather Buchanan could conduct both those in the garage and those who opted to attend via Zoom.

Buchanan noted that the singers needed to adjust to the acoustics of the deck, as well as the Amphitheater, and to singing while wearing masks, which are optional since singers are standing at least six feet apart and are outdoors. She called the experience “beautiful and strange.”

Alexa Tammone, a senior Music Education major, said she would never forget that first rehearsal. “The comfort in knowing that I am still able to sing face-to-face and safely with the University Singers made me feel like some sense of normalcy could be achieved this year,” she said. “It honestly felt like we had never missed a beat.”

Maya Henry, a Music Performance major who had been in lockdown in her home state of New York since March, said “I thought to myself that after the rehearsal ‘I will never take any moment I have with anyone for granted’ since the Choral Activities Program is my second home.”

As Mazzocchi reflected: “Six months of silence turned into sound in the garage, and reminded us all why we do what we do here at the School and in our chosen careers. Even though I had a few words for our students, the music said it all, really.”

Story by staff writer Mary Barr Mann

Photo Gallery

instructor taking selfie with music students

“It was clear that the directors and the students fully grasped the magnitude of the moment – many were openly emotional. Six months of silence turned into sound in the garage, and reminded us all why we do what we do here at the school.”

Anthony Mazzocchi, director, John J. Cali School of Music

student setting up her music stand and arranging sheet music

Many students keep their masks on when they are not playing their instruments.

students holding stands and instruments speaking with each other

“For safety, we have followed the science to the letter. This involves outdoor space, special masking and instrument-specific mitigation devices, shorter rehearsals, and more.” –Anthony Mazzocchi, director, John J. Cali School of Music

view of band from behind the conductor

Thomas McCauley, director of University Bands, conducts. August 27, 2020.

floutist with brass section out of focus behind him

Students say playing the first song was a moving experience, after having to rehearse solo for so long.

College of the Arts Dean Daniel Gurskis greets music students at their first rehearsal in the parking garage.

Students said playing together again gave them a sense of normalcy even if they were playing in the Red Hawk Deck.

silhouette of choir director speaking to the group

Heather J. Buchanan, director of Choral Activities, leads the MSU Singers in a socially distanced rehearsal in the Red Hawk Deck, saying the experience was “beautiful and strange.” August 27, 2020.

wide view of choir, piano player and conductor

“Choir is about building community. Keeping everyone connected is crucial.” –Heather J. Buchanan, director of Choral Activities

choir students in parking garage

For Red Hawk Deck and other outdoor rehearsals, members of the MSU Singers have the option to wear masks – although face coverings are not required when outdoors and 6 feet (or more) distant from others.

instructor on piano backed by choir students

John J. Cali School of Music faculty member Steven W. Ryan provides piano accompaniment. August 27, 2020.

choir students in parking garage

Singers got used to the acoustics of the garage and to wearing masks while singing.

choir students in parking garage

Students say rehearsing together even in the Red Hawk Deck gave them a sense of normalcy.

View of laptop and camera broadcasting students over zoom

Production Manager Phil Clifford worked overtime to ensure remote members of the MSU Singers could Zoom into the rehearsal on August 27, 2020.

close-up view of drummer using a wooden drum

Percussion class outside the Kasser Theater. September 1, 2020.


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