For Selah Torralba, a sophomore instrumental music performance major, her current experience as a member of the Concert Choir is miles away from what she remembers it being last year.
“There used to be rehearsals with anywhere from 10 to 30 people in one rehearsal,” Torralba said. “And now, any sort of larger ensemble is broken up into smaller sections.”
Trevecca’s music department has placed its focus on trying to be as prepared as possible for the complications of in-person learning this semester, said David Diehl, the dean of the school of music and worship arts.
“We took a very research-based approach to figuring out the best way to offer a quality face-to-face experience that is safe,” Diehl said.
The most complicated situation for the music department is singing, as it can produce aerosols that travel through the air that are not ideal when trying to combat COVID-19, said Diehl.
One of the ways the university has been able to adapt to these problems is by breaking up large choral groups into smaller groups of eight students. The department has also decided to put more than 15 feet of space between students when they rehearse, only sing for 20 minutes at a time and then let the room “rest” and air out for another 20 minutes before they are able to start singing again.
“To have an imperfect semester face-to-face is better than not being able to be face-to-face at all,” said Diehl.
In light of COVID-19, the Concert Choir’s final performance was recorded and turned into a virtual production. The university’s AV team got together with each octet group in the choir, gathered recordings of each member of the group singing their specific part of the song, and was then able to mix and layer the voices together and create a cohesive song. This recording was then paired with a video that the marketing team shot for the project.
“We had to all show up in our choir attire, with our masks on,” Torralba said. “We listened to a recording of the song, and just stood there and moved our jaws a little bit. Nobody sang, we just lip-synced.”
When Morgan Crocker, a sophomore classical voice major, thinks back to the spring semester when Trevecca students transitioned to remote online learning, she does not recall fond memories.
“When we went home for spring, it was a dumpster fire,” Crocker said. “For me, because vocal lessons are so interactive and hands on, we were working in an impossible situation.”
Crocker said that, even with all of the restrictions currently put into place, she is much more satisfied with the innovation and creativity being displayed by the music department as they try to ensure students like her are getting a quality education.
“They did a really good job figuring out how we can sing in our lessons,” Crocker said.
When Torralba thinks back to the music department she was a part of during her freshman year, she remembers a space that was always open, available and at the student’s disposal. But when the department implemented preventative measures to keep students and faculty safe from COVID-19, there was a lot that changed.
“There are a lot more steps involved in, [for example] allowing for group practices,” Torralba said. “If two people were to ask for a practice room, but they were both vocalists trying to get in the same room, that would not be allowed.”
Crocker has also been impacted by the music department’s changes and restrictions to the way students are allowed to utilize practice rooms.
“If I wanted to do a collaboration with another artist, I can’t practice in a practice room with them,” Crocker said.
One of the biggest hurdles Torralba has had to overcome this semester was the changes in class interactions.
“With music majors, we rely on each other in the classroom to learn with, and laugh with, and to create relationships so that asking for help is easier,” she said.
Even with all of the hardships this semester has brought, Crocker is thankful for the faculty and staff who serve in the music department.
“I got put in quarantine, and my vocal professor emailed or called me at least four times in that week,” said Crocker. “They really do care about us and are doing the best they can.”