Music Department Adapts to COVID Restrictions

Freshman Jake Byrne plays a xylophone and Lucas Caramanica plays a drum set. COVID-19 restrictions have forced students in band to make music in a different way than they did before the pandemic.

The music department has undergone many changes because of the coronavirus pandemic: changes in curriculum, socially–distanced practice sessions, students being forced to play their instruments at home *insert more examples here. All the things music students typically do during in-person learning has drastically changed due to social distancing and mask wearing protocols.

Band teacher Dr. Malkiel explained some of the changes that he made to the band program this year stating, “We focus on music theory and we take the chance to start from the very basics. [We also] make sure everyone is working on ear training, music theory, reading, and harmony,” he said.

In addition to these changes, technology has also helped the faculty adapt to social distancing requirements, which are even more stringent in music classes because of the breath expelled while playing instruments. A new app called SmartMusic has helped Dr. Malkiel listen to his students play their instruments:

“We also have a subscription for SmartMusic which is a program that allows you to … see yourself and record your part and share it with a teacher … The beautiful thing is that your teacher can listen to your recording with accompaniment,” he said.

Some students’ experiences in music have not been changed much by the pandemic. “The drummers, base players, guitar players,and piano players are able to play indoors safely,” he said.

Unfortunately, other elements of music education have suffered more than others. The pandemic has particularly affected how Dr. Malkiel has handled day to day classes and seasonal concerts. ”The most disappointing part is that we can’t meet all together and play at the same time,” he said. Additionally, Dr. Malkiel was disappointed that many different outside of school activities that involved the Hackley Music Department like all NYSSMA music festivals had to be cancelled.

The contact tracing that Hackley instituted has also made it harder to have all of the students in-person at the same time. “The most difficult part also is that many of the students are going in and out of in-person [learning} and are forced to spend some time at home. Every week somebody, or a few of us are gone, so it’s very hard to have everyone in here [to practice as a group],” Dr. Malkiel said.

In terms of the changes to logistics for concerts this year he states, “My plan [is] to have something much bigger in the spring”. Even though all of the Hackley concerts were cancelled last spring, he mentioned that he was fortunately able to do some kind of activity involving everyone in the band last May: “We did something really cool last spring, we did the recording of Natural Woman”, he mentioned. Dr. Malkiel created this recording by having students play their parts for Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin at home individually. He edited together these parts to create a recording that tried to recreate all of the students playing together in-person.

Although COVID-19 has forced the music department to make changes to how classes are done this year, they have kept going, trying their best to keep making music.