Winter Concert’s COVID precautions


Megan Mesikapp

Band students practice using specialty masks on Dec. 13.

By Megan Mesikapp, Reporter

For many Lane students, wearing a mask is just an annoying, but doable precaution for the pandemic.

However, the requirement is greatly affecting the music department and their events, such as the Winter Concert.

Lane’s choir concert took place on Dec. 8, and the Lane band concert will take place on Dec. 15. Various classes in the music department will also be performing at the holiday assembly on Dec. 17.

Choir teacher Mark Carrera said students have to wear masks due to COVID precautions, and while most school events have undergone changes due to COVID precautions, the music program has faced greater difficulties this school year as a whole.

Mark and Paul Carrera are two choir teachers at Lane. Mark Carrera has taught at Lane for 23 years of his career, and Paul Carrera has taught at Lane for 20 years of his career.

“[This] year is the most difficult year of teaching because of the masks,” Mark Carrera said. In choir class, according to him, one of the most important actions is to observe and analyze students’ mouths and facial expressions.

“[Students] look at our faces to see exactly what we are doing,” Mark Carrera said.

It is best for children to learn to sing when they are face to face with an adult and able to copy their actions, according to The Hanen Center, a charitable organization for developing children’s social and literacy skills.

Both choir teachers have experimented with a variety of masks to try and solve the problem of students not being able to see the teacher’s mouths, according to Paul Carrera, but none of the masks have worked to their desired level of effectiveness. And while there are masks that are specialized for choir, they cost $30 apiece, according to Mark Carrera, and the administration has not helped purchase them.

Mark Carrera said that because of this difficulty, students have taken more time to learn music. But the other pressing difficulty that came from COVID was a lack of performance time. Half of the choir kids have never performed before because of the two years without performances, he said.

On top of that, social distancing is affecting how choir class would normally take place.

The choir class is difficult to socially distance due to its size, with the largest class being around 70 kids, according to Mark Carrera. And when students manage to spread out there is another set of difficulties.

“They can’t hear each other,” Mark Carrera said. “We’re missing out on so many things of how kids learn music.”

The numbers of the choir have also drastically changed. The music department does not have exact numbers from enrollment of years past, but this year the class is down 100 students in comparison to the 2019 class. This is probably the smallest the choir has ever been, according to Paul Carrera.

Despite all of the changes going on inside the classroom, the pair, along with students, are overjoyed that the choir will perform.

“Hopefully this year we will be done with the masks,” said Paul Carrera.

The band has also been affected by COVID precautions.

Reed Flygt, one of the band teachers, said that personal protective equipment (PPE), has allowed the class to play.

PPE has been provided to students in the band. Students who play wind instruments are given masks with a flap that allow them to put their instruments underneath the mask, according to Samuel Veren, another band teacher at Lane. Flute players also receive specialized masks that permit them to slide their flute into the mask when ready to play, said Veren.

Similar to choir, band had a decline in enrollment.

Veren said this is because students have not gotten a chance to see the band perform live this year besides at athletic events or outside the main office.

“That’s enough to make students want to join band,” Veren said.

Maggie Kraft, Div. 290, is a senior who has been in Lane’s music program for all four years of high school. She has also noticed a decline in participation in band.

“This year’s marching band is the smallest it has ever been,” Kraft said.

Band teachers hope that it is not a permanent change.

“We’re really hopeful that that’s not a sign of long-term loss,” Flygt said.

The band also performed fewer songs at their winter concert on Wednesday, Dec. 15.

“Every ensemble is doing two pieces,” Flygt said.

This is a change in comparison to years past, where the various ensembles would perform three or more songs.

COVID precautions have also made the setup for the winter concerts more complicated. Both choir teachers and band teachers have had to plan out seating due to the smaller capacity of the auditorium, according to Veren.

However, regardless of the impacts, COVID precautions are having on music classes, students and teachers are excited to see students perform once more.

“Being in that environment and having that rush and seeing kids get excited about playing is what I’m excited about,” said Veren.