Music at Marquette struggles during pandemic

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Photo by Jordan Johnson

Marquette Wire stock photo.

COVID-19 has brought many changes to Marquette’s campus, including Marquette’s music programs.

Erik Janners, director of Marquette’s music program, said the biggest adjustment has been the schedule for band students.

“Normally each student is getting four hours of rehearsal time a week, three days a week for an hour and twenty minutes,” Janners said. “Now they’re getting maybe a half-hour.”

Along with the change in rehearsal times, the number of students performing together has decreased.

A usual practice takes place on the Varsity Theater stage with about 55 students. However, with COVID-19, students are now split into groups ranging from 6 to 10 students.

 Janners said this specific change has been both good and bad. On the good side, there is more “one-on-one teaching” resulting in “more contact with each student.” Janners also said that the smaller groups allow for closer connections between students in each group.

Mariam Reichert, a first-year in the College of Health Sciences, said that it “has been a great way to get to know the people in (her) section a lot better than (she) would in a bigger ensemble setting.”

Despite the closer connections being made, the small groups do limit some social interactions. Hannah Van Der Karr, a senior in the College of Communications and band president, said the change to smaller groups is hard.

“You only get to see people who are in your group,” Van Der Karr said. “So, for me, I’ve only seen select brass players for the past year. As a president, that’s really hard for me.”

Van Der Karr, also said COVID-19 has hindered usual activities that band students do with one another.

“Usually we are doing social events like at least once a month,” Van Der Karr said. “We go ice skating, we do giant bowling parties, we (would) do a lot of big picnics and grill-outs.”

COVID-19 has made it “very very hard” to plan events like those and has forced band to “find alternatives,” Van Der Karr said.

Even Marquette’s pep band has been affected. The pep band usually travels with Marquette’s men and women’s basketball team to their BIG EAST tournaments in March, performing at the games. With the no-in-person-attendance policy at games this year though, Van Der Karr said there have been “zero performances.” The exception to this being the pep bands performances outside of Cobeen and Schroeder when both buildings went on lockdown.

Other extra precautions have been put in place.  The band department ordered every student a special mask that can be worn at all times while they play. Bell covers also put on instruments to prevent the spread of germs. Despite these changes, Reichert said “the experience with band has been remarkably normal; considering the circumstances.”

Van Der Karr said the experience is “disappointing for sure.” She said, especially as a senior she knows “a lot of (them) have missed so many … opportunities of the events … (they) would usually do”

Despite the disappointments, Van Der Karr said she hopes that “this hasn’t discouraged new students from joining in the future” and “that students still want to take the opportunity and join us for, you know, our bands or jazz or orchestra, swing choir, all of our music programs.” 

Hannah Van Der Karr previously worked for the Marquette Wire. She had no role in the reporting or editing of this story. 

This story was written by Karsyn Hartsfield. She can be reached at karsyn.hartsfield@marquette.edu.