Following the dismissal of in-person contact between students and faculty and staff on March 13, Missouri Southern experienced major effects to the University due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following a University wide 10% budget decrease, Missouri Southern was still committed to providing an on-campus experience for students this fall.
“I have talked to a lot of different people about how they feel personally and everyone has different answers,” said Jarrett Little, junior, music education major. “Cohesively we are all like, what happens next?”
Although Missouri Southern received funding to supplement the disruption of campus operations, departments campus wide are continuing to develop strategies to ensure academic success for students as we resume in-person classes this semester. Department Chair, Keith Talley, discussed the dilemmas caused by COVID-19, and the solutions and precautions put in place for the safety of students.
“The biggest problem is that musicians as a whole, produce a lot of aerosols from breathing in and out deeply, and that whole situation complicates things,” said Talley.
Wind instruments are played by individuals who blow into their instruments and cause vibrations, which can be manipulated to produce different pitches. This process can produce condensation as well as saliva which collects inside the instrument and has to be disposed of in a careful manner.
“What we are doing is relying on research that is being conducted at the University of Colorado, involving musicians and aerosols, where professionals are studying this in a controlled environment, as well as providing guidance that we and other schools can follow,” said Talley.
These guidelines provided by the University of Colorado say students must remain six feet apart, wear masks, and have a good air exchange rate as well as ventilation in the rooms that they choose to practice or perform in.
“We limit our rehearsals to 30 minutes in a space and then let it air out for 20-30 minutes, have students wear masks with slits in them so they can still play their instruments, and wear bell covers on their instruments to prevent some of the aerosols from escaping,” said Talley.
Instrument bell covers act as a mask for the student's instrument and are made with machine washable fabric and elastic. Having both a mask for students and their instruments reduces the spread of aerosols and germs.
When it comes to practicing alone, students are still able to utilize the practice rooms, yet the same precaution of 30 minutes at a time per room is still put in place.
Students must also keep the door open while rehearsing and let the room air out for another 30 minutes after use.
None of these changes are conventional methods for musicians in a typical rehearsal, which can make adapting to them challenging for students, however, Talley said the students believe in the guidance given to them and believe it is for their own safety.
Director of Choral Music, Dr. David Sharlow, ordered special masks, developed by the Broadway Relief Project, meant to contain aerosols, but also give the space for deep breathes required for singing.
“We’ve all begun to realize they aren’t the most comfortable, so we may be looking into some different ones for next semester,” said Sharlow.
The Concert Choral presents the Choral Flourish annually, although no final details have been decided upon, Sharlow said the production will definitely happen it will just look a little different this year.
“We’re working on a DVD of that [The Choral Flourish] in connection with the Communication Department, we’re hoping to do some things live but again we have to limit audience members and we can’t sing for a long period of time in an enclosed space like that.”
The Band has also taken different approaches to live performances. The Wind Ensemble has been given the go ahead to have their first live performance of the semester at Landreth Park, on Oct. 8, which can also be live streamed, as a new option for listeners.
Though there is no football being played this season, the marching band is still rehearsing. Due to the nature of the marching band being mostly outside, they have it a little easier than the ensembles do, air circulation and ventilation do not play a big factor towards the safety of the students.
“[The marching band] Is still wearing masks outside and still social distancing, so right now as a complete ensemble, they are not rehearsing anywhere inside, however there are still options for practicing inside,” said Talley.
The marching band will not be performing at the stadium, however, the marching band is able to still do some community performances.
As the Theatre Department prepares for it’s winter musical, “Nevermore” Department Chair, Erick Wolfe said rehearsals haven’t changed too drastically, everyone is just in masks and six feet apart, however questions about restrictions for the live production are still unanswered.
“We don’t know if the mask guidance is going to be lifted,” said Wolfe. “We just found out that we can’t invite an audience in, it can only be students and faculty, that may change again before October,” said Wolfe.
Sophie Stoebel, fine arts major, said she was disappointed to hear about the new restrictions on performances, but is still excited.
“I’m excited because a lot of my friends go to school here so a lot of my friends will get to see the show, but my mom obviously doesn’t work here, or go to school here so this will be the first show in 9 years that she’s never gotten to see live,” said Stoebel.
The Theatre department is looking into live streaming the musical however streaming theatrical productions requires purchasing additional rights.
Although the Theatre Department has fallen victim to departmental budget cuts, community donors have helped compensate the program.
“We’ve been very fortunate, Fletcher Toyota is donating two-thousand dollars for our music theatre program so its helping cover the costs of this show,” said Wolfe.
Accounting for all the changes, Abby Brower, fine arts major, tries to keep a positive attitude amid the trying times however feels insecure in the longevity of campus remaining open.
“It feels like I’m losing out on some important experiences, and learning time,” said Brower.
“I’m least excited about probably not getting to do anything more than “Nevermore” because I just have a feeling we are going to be shut down.”
As a whole, the meticulous preparations put in place to keep students safe, all with the intentions of providing students access to a quality education, have been enacted campus wide, by implementing new technology, makeshift barriers and seeking outside donors.
As departments continue reevaluating the situation and developing creative approaches, Wolfe said the overall silver lining is having students back on campus.
“Hearing the laughter in the hallways, hearing classes, that is where my joy comes in,” said Wolfe.