The Chapel was reverberating this week as band students returned to indoor classes for the first time this school year. Middle Schoolers, led by Middle and Upper School Instrumental Teacher Chris Brown and arranged in a physically distanced band formation, tried out new songs, and fine-tuned some of their favorites they’ve been working on from home individually all year.
“It has been so good to see the students playing together, to hear the grand cacophony of noise as twenty-some instruments are warming up and getting ready to work,” Brown said. “And now that we are back, the energy in the room is just palpable! It will be a joyful finish to a challenging year.”
Until just a few days ago, music classes were entirely focused on individual music skills, which, according to Brown, will pay off in the long-term. But many students sign up for band so that they can play together with other students and learn to work together in an ensemble.
“When the first note came through from the first ensemble that played together for the first time, I just felt so energized and excited, I don't think we stopped playing until the very last second of class,” Brown said. “It was such an incredible moment to play as a group for the first time in over a year.”
With Middle School Assistant Teacher Brittney Johnson coordinating the students in person, Brown is teaching the classes from home. He is projected on a large screen in the Chapel complete with a metronome, a “start, wait, and stop” signal, and he can listen and play along with students.
“It’s the first time I've felt like a band teacher in over a year,” Brown said. “I'm grateful that the students worked so hard on their own at home, and now I will be able to hear them play together. It’s going to be amazing.”
Students were laughing and enjoying playing with Brown projected on the screen. Spirits were high, as most have not played music with another human being, in person, in over a year.
“Music by nature is intended to draw listeners and performers together and connect them through a shared experience,” Brown said. “At a time like this, when so much of our lives has been disconnected for a long time, it can be challenging and even a little uncomfortable to connect with other people. Music can be so helpful for those moments. We need each other, even when we can't be close together, and music can bring us the connection we need.
“I am just so grateful to work at such an incredible school, with incredible colleagues and students, who can overcome so many challenges to arrive at this great place of making music together!”