Occupational Therapy Assistant - Felician College

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Pantyhose and Trash Bags: How Music Programs Are Surviving in the Pandemic - The New York Times

Pantyhose and Trash Bags: How Music Programs Are Surviving in the Pandemic - The New York Times


Pantyhose and Trash Bags: How Music Programs Are Surviving in the Pandemic - The New York Times

Posted: 03 Dec 2020 12:00 AM PST

In 13 years of playing flute, Gabriella Alvarez never imagined playing with a clear plastic trash bag around her instrument. Kevin Vigil never foresaw his fellow tuba players wrapping pantyhose around their instrument bells.

And neither expected to watch their marching band at New Mexico State University play through cloth face masks, separated by six-foot loops of water pipe, with bags filled with hand sanitizer and disinfectant strapped around their waists.

But this is band practice in a pandemic.

The two students, both seniors, are grateful to have practice at all. In March, the coronavirus shut down their band along with much of the country, painfully demonstrating that the pandemic would leave no part of their education untouched. It would take five months for them to regain the precious ability to play together again.

"In the middle of this summer, I started playing my instrument alone and sat there crying because I was just so upset," Ms. Alvarez, 22, said. "Making music with other people is part of why I do it."

In dozens of interviews, students and educators described similar travails — and similar adaptations — in music programs across the country. In many districts, schools have paused their music programs or moved them online out of concerns that aerosol transmission of the coronavirus during band or chorus practices would turn them into superspreader events.

Those bands and orchestras that have moved their programs online often found that ordinary video chat platforms are inadequate because of audio lag. And students have said there is simply no substitute for in-person practices, performances and instruction. Even in small group or private lesson via webcam, the details of proper posture, pitch and rhythm are lost, they said.

Ms. Alvarez, who is studying music performance, lost the one-on-one guidance she needed to prepare for auditions with professional orchestras. Mr. Vigil's first student teaching position, critical for the degree in music education he is seeking, was canceled. Rather than risk entering a job market ravaged by the virus, both chose to postpone graduation.

Unable to introduce music to children during their formative years, teachers fear a lasting drop in participation that could wipe out much of the next generation of musicians.

"If children and even college students can't participate in music, it's going to create such a void and it's going to reverberate for a long time," said Mark J. Spede, president of the College Band Directors National Association.

Instead of ensemble music, some programs have been teaching music history or theory, or having students submit videos of themselves playing their instruments that are incorporated into collages that make it seem as if they are performing together. But creating such collages requires resources that many schools cannot afford.

At North Kansas City High School in Missouri, where the governor has slashed the education budget, the band director Carrie Epperson has only half of last year's funds, and she is still waiting on bell covers her school district promised to send to wind instrumentalists. Nevertheless, mask wearing and strict social distancing seem to have worked: no band members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Brenna Ohrmundt is the band director for a small, low-income district in rural Wisconsin, where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks. When schools shuttered in March, many students did not have instruments at home. When they returned to classrooms this fall, they still were not allowed to play together.

"What I'm afraid of is, students are going to say, 'This is not what I signed up for,'" Ms. Ohrmundt said.

Yet, at a time when students could be discouraged from continuing to study music, educators are finding innovative ways for them to play together safely.

Mr. Spede, who is also director of bands at Clemson University, recognized early on that educators did not know which music activities might be safe. He initiated a study in which researchers at the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland have been measuring the spread of aerosols when people sing, dance or play instruments.

"My biggest fear was that people, administrators, whoever were going to have a knee-jerk reaction and say that can't possibly be safe, to play music in person," Mr. Spede said. "What we're trying to do with the study is, literally, save music."

Preliminary results from the study show that some simple rules can help prevent the virus from spreading in music groups: mask wearing, even if that entails cutting a hole in it to play an instrument; covering the bell of brass instruments, such as trumpets, with nylon (pantyhose work); and practicing outdoors where possible, or in properly ventilated areas.

"Even that information gives people hope right now, which we desperately need," said Rebecca Phillips, president of the National Band Association and the director of bands at Colorado State University.

Ms. Alvarez cried tears of joy and relief on the day in August when New Mexico State's marching band reunited.

Steven Smyth, the university's associate director of bands, worked all summer with faculty and students to put into place safety measures. Practice is now always outdoors. To enforce social distancing, Mr. Smyth designed six-foot "hula hoops" made of water pipes that encircle each musician. He recruited a flute player who is studying engineering to customize masks with slits that snap shut magnetically for the woodwind players.

Nylon bell covers were ordered for brass players. And, following another recommendation from the study, brass players must empty "spit valves," a tap that drains condensation from inside the instrument, onto absorptive puppy pee pads.

"There was a lot of negativity going around," Ms. Alvarez said. "But once those masks came out, a lot of people started saying, 'Oh, we're coming back. This is happening.'"

Mr. Smyth said this week that the marching band had not had a student test positive for the coronavirus. Nationally, the College Band Directors National Association reports that no infections among college band students have been attributed to band activities, Mr. Spede said.

"I feel a little bit safer just knowing that there are a lot of people fighting to keep the arts alive," Mr. Vigil said.

Other schools have used similarly creative measures. Villanova University ordered goggles for their marching band after researchers in China found fewer virus cases among people with glasses, suggesting that eye protection could reduce spread of the virus. At West Chester University, plexiglass walls separate instructors from students in private lessons.

The Northern Virginia Community College campus in Annandale, Va., is home to a thriving symphony orchestra, open to students and members of the community. Despite having fewer resources and a smaller music department than most universities, it has the support of Reunion Music Society, a local nonprofit group that helped it reach record enrollment this year.

"This orchestra would not exist without community involvement," said Ralph Brooker, president of Reunion Music Society and principal cellist in the orchestra.

This fall, the conductor, Christopher Johnston, has been organizing about 50 active orchestra members, who include older musicians, into small groups. Some rehearse six feet apart in carports and church parking lots, but most use JamKazam, a video chat platform that allows musicians to see and hear each other in real time.

The technology is imperfect. At a jazz group meeting, JamKazam kept booting Mr. Johnston off the call. The musicians turned to Zoom, where audio lag caused the individual parts of "My Funny Valentine" to trip drunkenly over each other. The song was barely recognizable, but the musicians grinned in their little onscreen boxes — the thrill of playing together had not been dampened.

"There is therapy in getting together with other musicians." Mr. Johnston said. "It's helping us cope with all of the negative byproducts of this time, one of which is loneliness."

Safety measures have gone far to reassure students and educators. Results from a survey distributed this fall show that participation in school and community bands has held steady since last year, according to James Weaver, director of performing arts with the National Federation of State High School Associations. Though about 200 of the more than 2,000 band programs surveyed are currently "frozen," only four education-based bands were canceled outright.

Musicians at every level say that those who were passionate about a career in music before the pandemic are only more motivated now. Ms. Alvarez plans to get a master's degree in music performance after she graduates. Mr. Vigil, who aspires to teach music at the college level, has leaned into his leadership role with the marching band.

In Wisconsin, Ms. Ohrmundt spent weeks hand-sewing masks, soliciting donations of bell covers and scrounging up pillowcases that woodwind players could wrap around their instruments — all in hopes of gathering her high school band in the gym for its first practice in months. But a surge in the virus has postponed in-person activities into next year.

In Missouri, Nevaeh Diaz, who graduated from North Kansas City High School in May, is now studying music education at Missouri State University.

In playing the drums in high school, Ms. Diaz had found a healthy outlet for her anxiety and depression. And during the pandemic, she leaned even more on her band director, Ms. Epperson, who personally delivered one of the school's expensive marimbas to Ms. Diaz's home for a virtual scholarship audition.

Now she looks at Ms. Epperson as a model for the high school band director she aims to become.

"I'm not here for the money, I'm here to change a life," Ms. Diaz said. "If I can be the teacher to the student that Epp was for me, then I will do that."

Home for the Holidays concert tradition continues with online event - Davis Enterprise

Posted: 12 Dec 2020 07:04 PM PST

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The 17th annual Home for the Holidays concert is on!

This popular event featuring touring musicians, with proceeds benefitting a worthy cause — the nonprofit Davis School Arts Foundation supporting local school music programs — will be an online event with streaming video this year, in keeping with the many changes stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

While patrons may miss the in-person experience, there is one advantage to the online format: more musical acts than usual.

"We don't have the time limitations with set changes between acts," said Bill Fairfield, who helps organize the concerts each year.

This year's lineup includes several crowd favorites from past years, as well as three new acts: Marcia Ball, Sons of the Soul Revivers and Dave Nachmanoff.

Bringing a variety of sounds to the virtual stage are:

* Marcia Ball, a blues singer who lives in Austin, Texas, and is familiar to Davis audiences because she has appeared several times at The Palms Playhouse (a nightspot in Davis and later in Winters that was a popular venue for many years).

* Sons of the Soul Revivers, featuring three brothers who grew up singing gospel material in church and also sing at blues festivals.

"We went to them and filmed them at their home in the Bay Area," Fairfield said.

* Dave Nachmanoff, a local singer-songwriter who has toured throughout the United States and England, spending many years with Al Stewart (known for his hit "Year of the Cat"). With his own dedicated following, he will resume touring post-COVID. Nachmanoff is always happy to support local events, especially arts-related.

* Joe Craven and Hattie Craven. This father-and-daughter musical pair have long been associated with the Davis area music scene, and have released a number of albums between them. In addition to performing music, Joe Craven will once again be co-hosting this year's Home from the Holidays event as emcee.

* Dorothy Morrison, who has contributed to the last two Home for the Holidays shows.  She is known as the singer of the worldwide  hit "Oh Happy Day." This year, she contributes a video of her singing "Soulful Christmas."

* The Davis High School Madrigal Singers, who have traveled the world with their choral music over the past few decades as musical ambassadors of their school and the Davis community.

* Bill Edwards, a longtime local musician and teacher who was an original member of Mumbo Gumbo. He'll be featured in the somewhat irreverent seasonal song "Eating My Way Through the Holidays."

* The Fairfields, featuring Bill Fairfield and Ryley Fairfield, another family duo. In addition to performing some of their own material, the Fairfields will play some numbers together with Joe and Hattie Craven.

* Alaina Rose: A superb young harpist, Rose has performed with many symphonies and orchestras, and has taken the harp in new directions with her songwriting and genre-bending performances. She has been a crowd favorite at previous Home for the Holidays shows, and loves supporting the arts.

* Boot Juice. Most of the five musicians in this band grew up playing music together, and their tunes draw on Americana, river rock and mountain blues. Boot Juice released an EP in 2018 and their debut album in 2019.

"They're a cool young band out of Davis, in their 20s, and they've been touring recently," Fairfield said.

* Misner & Smith, a popular local duo known for tight harmonies and excellent songwriting. Megan Smith is a Davis High School grad who enjoys giving back, via this benefit show, to the arts programs she enjoyed in high school.

* Rita Hosking and Sean Feder: Local musical treasure Hosking's songwriting and vocal stylings have drawn her an international following. Partnering with her husband Feder on banjo and guitar, they have an organic, roots sound that is unique. A former teacher at Emerson Junior High, Hosking is giving back to the schools she loves.

* Kora Feder: The daughter of Rita Hosking and Sean Feder, she is carving her own songwriting path, and performs primarily on the East Coast. This young folk/Americana troubadour, and arts supporter, is giving back to the Davis schools she attended

* Brian Rivers, who was a mainstay in the Davis musical community, from the original Music Shoppe of Davis to performing for years with the Spydels and Mumbo Gumbo. Now based in Cincinnati, Rivers teaches music and performs regionally, and has submitted a video for this hometown show.

Viewers who pledge a $25 (or larger) donation will get a free DVD featuring highlights of past Home for the Holidays concerts, including an appearance by longtime local musician Little Charlie, who passed away earlier this year. Donations to Davis School Arts Foundation can be made at  https://davisschoolartsfoundation.org/donate.

Davis Media Access is a co-sponsor of this popular Davis holiday tradition. The event will be simulcast at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, on KDRT 95.7 FM and DCTV Channel 15 and will be available for video and audio streaming at kdrt.org (a link will be provided there the day of the show for the YouTube stream).

VSO's 'Music for Days Like This': 4 cellos, 2 percussionists and a lot of unexpected - Rutland Herald

Posted: 11 Dec 2020 09:00 PM PST

When the Vermont Symphony Orchestra presents its second "Music for Days Like This," online at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, it will feature some unlikely ensembles, including VSO percussionists D. Thomas Toner and Nicola Cannizzaro.

"Seeing Tom and Nick play a percussion duo is a whole different world than seeing them play the bass drum, the triangle and maybe a cymbal in the symphony," explains Matt LaRocca, composer and the VSO's creative projects chairman, who curates the VSO's online programming.

If that weren't unusual enough, VSO cellists John Dunlop, Perri Morris, Bonnie Klimowski and Dieuwke Davydov will join the percussionists in works ranging from a commissioned world premiere to well-known music by Arvo Pärt and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. David Serkin Ludwig, composer, teacher and the VSO's new music adviser, hosts.

"Music for Days Like This" unlike Juke Box, which is streamed live, is recorded at the Elley-Long Music Center in Colchester.

"We recorded this in advance to have more behind-the-scenes footage, more interviews with people who are playing the music, people who have written music for it, which we can't do in a live show right now," La Rocca said.

A major purpose of both programs is to provide opportunities to VSO musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Since we're not going to play with an orchestra still for a long while yet, we really go out of our way to showcase the different chamber ensembles, and the different sides of the VSO that you don't see in a full orchestra concert," LaRocca said.

Opening the program is Mozart's beloved motet "Ave verum corpus," K. 618. But rather than a chorus, it will be performed in an arrangement for four cellos by W. Thomas-Mifune.

La Rocca compares Molly Joyce's "Release," the world premiere commission for the entire ensemble, with Pärt's "Fratres," which LaRocca arranged for the program.

"'Release' is a fantastic companion for the Pärt because it has a similar introspective quality," LaRocca said. "It uses a lot of similar tonal techniques, with harmonics in the beginning of it. Then it slowly transforms into this real celebratory (mood), whereas the Pärt stays introspective the whole time."

Joyce is a Juilliard-trained composer on the faculty of New York University, and active in the New York new music community. She is also a 2010 graduate of the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival's Young Composers Seminar in Colchestter.

"I think she's a brilliant composer," La Rocca said. "In my mind, she really inhabits this world of new music where, yes, it's classical, but she brings in other influences too, which makes a really interesting end product."

La Rocca calls "As One" by Gene Koshinsky "one of the coolest percussion duets I've ever seen."

"Watching it is as amazing as what you hear," he said. "It's one of those pieces where the actual choreography and movement that Tom and Nick do, it's so much fun to watch. They act like a mirror image to one another all the time while sharing this giant five-octave marimba."

Sydney Guillaume, a 38-year-old composer originally from Haiti, now living in Portland, Oregon, will be represented by "Lespwa" for cello ensemble.

"Lespwa is ancient Creole for hope," La Rocca said. "Sometimes when I program, I think of companion pieces. Here, I hear vestiges of the Mozart, especially in the cello arrangement, not necessarily if 'Ave verum corpus" was done traditionally. But his writing is really melodic, very sing-song. It's a beautiful piece."

"Slide Rule," written by percussionists Josh Gottry and Jonny Woodbury, is a duet for cojons, traditional 16th-century Afro-Peruvian box drums.

"It's upbeat and fun and kind of rocking," LaRocca said. "It's a little different from what we've usually done. It's fun to watch Tom and Nick."

"Canción de Sueños" and "Tango" from "Carole Neuen-Rabinowitz's "Suite Hispaniola" is for four cellos.

"Carole is a cellist from the Nashville Symphony, and also plays in the National String Machine," La Rocca said. "This is a very traditional four-cello suite over which Tom and Nick will be improvising."

LaRocca asked the composer how she felt about the percussionists improvising her music.

"She wrote back right away: 'I love it! Great!'" LaRocca said.

With this concert and the Jan. 16 Juke Box, the VSO's announced programs will end. What next?

"We're still trying to figure things out," La Rocca said. "We still are going to find a way to put on shows regardless.

"Between the two shows we've done, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive — which is great!" he said. "From our standpoint, we're really happy with what we've been able to put out."

jim.lowe @timesargus.com / jim.lowe @rutlandherald.com

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