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Indiana Daily Student

IU Jacobs School of Music students adjust to new normal during pandemic

<p>Musician Riley Bender plays her piccolo at the Marching Hundred rehearsal on Sept. 30 at Conrad Prebys Amphitheater. As a wind player, she must use an air shield to prevent the air coming out of her instrument from circulating. </p>

Musician Riley Bender plays her piccolo at the Marching Hundred rehearsal on Sept. 30 at Conrad Prebys Amphitheater. As a wind player, she must use an air shield to prevent the air coming out of her instrument from circulating. 

IU students have faced struggles with their return to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but students in the Jacobs School of Music have additional challenges.

Riley Bender is a freshman music education major with an emphasis in flute performance. Most of her classes are virtual, including her private lessons. Bender said she typically sends videos to her professor of her playing her lesson material a few days in advance.

“We still talk about everything, and I do get to play a little bit in my lesson time,” Bender said. “But it's just not like the one-on-one, and she can't really see exactly what I'm doing, so it's hard that way.”

Zach Coronado, a freshman bassoon performance major, does private lessons with his professor online as well. One thing he has struggled with is the Zoom audio quality during his private lessons.

“There’s a lot of lost analysis, and you can’t really quite analyze sound and all the characteristics of music as deeply,” Coronado said.

Bender has also started learning how to play both saxophone and bassoon this year as part of the music education track. Typically, that learning would be in person, but this year it is completely virtual. She has a Zoom call once a week, which leaves the rest of the week open for individual practice. 

“During that Zoom we just talk about the correct techniques and specific things like embouchure or fingerings and how to teach the instrument,” Bender said. “But, you know, learning an instrument, it's not too hard because a lot of things we’re smart enough to figure out on our own.”

Bender sets her phone camera up next to her laptop in order to analyze her embouchure. Since her lessons are virtual, she has to do more learning on her own. Caitlin Ryan

Bender said she has struggled throughout the semester with finding available practice rooms. She has one scheduled practice time in the Jacobs building, but other than that she rehearses in the first come, first-served practice rooms in the Read Quadrangle dorms.

“That's kind of hard,” Bender said. “I only get one certain time, and then everything else is based on if the front desk is open in Read.”

Coronado said he often ends up practicing in his dorm room.

“You have very set times for your practice rooms, so I have a set time each day that I have to go over there instead of reserving them and a lot of it just gets done in my room anyways,” Coronado said.

One of the major differences this year is the lack of bigger ensembles, Bender said.

“As musicians, our main thing is playing with each other, and that's what we all look forward to,” Bender said.

Coronado has also noticed the effects of the lack of ensembles. In a normal year, these ensembles would meet several times a week to practice together and also spend time on the material on their own, Coronado said.

“There’s so much to be learned by playing with other people, just about yourself and about technique, that you lose a lot of,” Coronado said. “So it’s all feeling like just a solo career.”

Riley Bender puts together her flute to practice. She has been playing for about nine years.  Caitlin Ryan

Nevertheless, Bender was able to see both sides of the situation.

“I think there's a lot of pros and cons,” Bender said. “A definite con is that we can't play in bands or orchestras, but a pro is that a lot of people are doing a bunch of small ensemble work and like chamber ensembles, which is super fun because we get to make those smaller group connections."

However, Bender said she has still been able to meet people and make friends despite the changes.

“Even though we can't be in the large ensembles and stuff, at least the Jacobs freshmen are super close,” Bender said. “So we're not missing out in that way because everyone reaches out to each other and is really welcoming.”

Despite all of the challenges, Bender said she is trying to maintain a positive attitude.

“We're working through it and it's working out,” Bender said.

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