Isabella Van Ess ‘22
I first picked up a flute when I was nine years old as part of a program for rising 6th graders that our music teacher affectionately called the “the petting zoo”. I knew right away I didn’t want to play the tuba or the cello, as I couldn’t imagine myself lugging it onto the bus every morning. Although it was easy enough to carry to and from school, learning to play the flute required both patience and perseverance.
In the struggles of learning to play, I discovered a newfound passion for collaborating with others in a band to create music.It wasn’t until I came to Mercersburg that I realized being in a band is about a lot more than just playing music in sync with other musicians. We’re like a family, and creating close bonds with bandmates is almost as important than playing the right notes. I’ve met some of my closest friends through the band, and it’s really hard not being able play with them during this unprecedented time.
Being in a band during a global pandemic presents road-blocking challenges. We haven’t been able to practice together or hear the whole band play as one. Although these unique challenges could have made it easier to simply give up, I think that we used them to provide equally unique opportunities to practice and get better as musicians.
Our directors are able to incorporate things students enjoy doing into the curriculum. Instead of simply practicing and recording assigned music pieces, we were instructed to create and duet TikToks with other classmates and continue a music-themed trend on the popular app.
By doing something we already enjoy, it is easy to find fun in playing even though we can’t physically see each other. Additionally, we are using an app called Rehearsal Live Share where we can work on pieces we are preparing for future concerts. In the app, we play our respective parts and our directors can put it all together to hear a synchronized music performance. We hope to perform these outside as a whole band in the spring term.
Unfortunately, some students don’t have the necessary resources to fully participate in the class. Right now it’s especially challenging for the percussion musicians and those who don’t have access to rental instruments. However, you can make music out of almost anything, which is why using TikTok is a unique opportunity to use items around the house. Our band director, Bryan Morgan, added that TikTok is “something most do anyway, and it’s an easy way to collaborate with others with or without your actual band instrument.”
Overall, I believe that as a band we’ve adjusted to the second wave of virtual classes really well by being creative with how we’re using our time. As musicians develop they must learn how to play different styles of music, and, in a way, virtual band is no different. We’ve learned to play in a new form which challenges us to test our abilities in a different setting. This experience will give us valuable lessons we will carry on to a “normal” year.