How the Music Department Adjusted to COVID Yet Again


Moravian music students’ music lesson format.

At this point in the fall semester, the music department is usually busting with ensemble rehearsals and preparations for a full concert season.

However, this is not the case this year due to COVID-19. 

As a music major, I was very worried about how my classes, ensembles, and lessons were going to be run when President Grigbsy made the announcement in early June about the change to the fall semester. However, I was confident that the music department would make the necessary changes to make their students safe as they adjusted quickly and efficiently to the all online classes announcement that was made last spring semester.

As a way to keep the department updated about the changes and also as a way to still foster community throughout the summer, the music department’s chair — Dr. Neil Wetzel — decided to hold monthly performance class meetings in order to keep us involved with everything going on. 

These meetings were extremely helpful, as they not only presented the changes to the department, but also shared helpful information about instrument repair and stress-relieving techniques that could be applied in any aspect of life, not just music.

At the last summer performance class meeting in August, Dr. Wetzel shared with the department documents containing frequently asked questions about how the department was handling COVID-19, music studio protocols, large and small ensemble guidelines, concert and recital guidelines, and music library information. In addition to the music specific documents, COVID-19 specific guidelines were also released for the dance department.

These guidelines were set in conjunction with Moravian College’s COVID-19 plan, as well as COVID-19 specific research conducted by the National Association for Music Education.

It was also announced that unlike previous semesters, ensemble rehearsals will vary between small sectional rehearsals, highly distanced rehearsals, or being completely online. Lessons and practicums are at the discretion of the teacher and the student and can be held either in-person or online and classes are offered in in-person, hybrid, and online formats. Additionally, performance class will still be held; however, it would be conducted in a virtual format on Zoom with students opting either to perform in-person in Foy Hall or to submit a recording of themselves performing.

These guidelines this semester have proved to be effective and efficient considering everything going on, which has allowed for music students to continue their education — even if it has been in a rather unconventional way

In a brief poll that The Comenian conducted for this article, most music majors expressed that they still enjoyed their classes, even if they were in an online format. While music lessons are being conducted in-person, there are still some students and teachers who have opted for online lessons. However, the same sentiment heard about concerts and rehearsals in the poll conducted last semester remained. 

Moravian music students’ opinion on if they liked their music classes online or not.
Moravian music students’ opinion on if they liked their music classes online or not.
Moravian music students’ music lesson format.
Moravian music students’ music lesson format.

Moravian music students’ opinion on if they liked their music classes online or not.

Moravian music students’ music lesson format.

The students surveyed described their current ensemble experiences similarity. Most are rehearsing in socially-distanced small groups, with some even referring to required “airing out” breaks. 

In regards to how ensembles are rehearsing one student surveyed said, “I think it’s effective considering the circumstances; however, it’s hard not ever hearing how your part aligns with another and it’s a big cause of a lot of issues when you can’t hear the entire ensemble and how the piece really sounds as a whole.” 

However, another student believed that “It isn’t effective and no one is learning well [compared to previous semesters].” 

While most music concerts this semester will be conducted via a live stream platform or recording, almost all the students surveyed believed that these live streams are not an optimal choice for performing and expressed similar sentiments towards recording. One student even suggested that while these changes are “understandable, [it still] would make more sense to do outdoor concerts.”

“It really kills the experience,” the student said.”The nerves, the anticipation, the fun part! Recording is NOT easy either and it causes a lot of stress on both conductors and performers. I wish all the concerts could be live streams instead as I’m not a huge fan of recording and find it to be more stressful.” 

Overall, students have concerns about their education, as they did last semester. They are still worried they are not learning as well as they were in the previous semester and also about the lack of field experience for music education majors and in-person performing for music performance majors. 

“Yes I am concerned, primarily due to the lack of field experience for education classes as well as the extended ability to redo assignments for better grades, or use open notes,” one student said. “Someday we won’t have those things anymore.” 

Another student wrote, “Being a performance major, I am concerned that I will not be prepared to perform as I have not had as much experience as other people because of everything going on with COVID.”

However, regardless of how unconventional this semester may be for everyone involved, music students are still excited to be on-campus and continue being a part of the community they are so fond of at Moravian College, as well as having more time to work on their own. They also said that they are “proud of the overwhelming ability of the music department to adapt and everyone’s supportive tendencies in these trying times.”

Personally, I understand those sentiments. Making these decisions was not easy, and I am proud of my department for finding ways to continue our education in the best way possible considering the restrictions and the research conducted about COVID-19. 

I am also happy that everyone has been respectful of each other and understands the necessity of following these restrictions in order to make sure we continue to stay on campus.

It is hard not to think about how this unconventional semester will impact us in the future. Being a music major requires a lot of hands-on experience that might be hard to learn in the future or might even put us in a detrimental position compared to other musicians or music educators who had a full four years of performing and field experience. 

However, we are getting an experience in how to adapt to changes that we may not have gotten had COVID-19 not occurred, which puts us at a better position than we might have been if the whole semester was online instead.