On a dreary Friday afternoon, members of JCCC’s jazz ensemble gathered in the east parking lot of the Carlsen Center. Plastic chairs and music stands were spaced at least six feet apart, giving students enough space to play safely. Hank Lancaster plays the bass trombone.
“We’re so far apart from each other that if you have to play quiet, no one’s going to hear you,” Lancaster said.
Ryan Heinlein, the director of instrumental activities at JCCC, conducted. As the Fall semester approached, Heinlein had to make important decisions in order to keep the members of the ensemble safe while still allowing them the freedom to learn and improve.
“The biggest thing is moving outside,” Heinlein said. “All of the precautions, bell covers, saxophone and clarinet bags, mouthpiece guards, and face shields for flutes, it all just started to get in the way of my goal as a band director, which is teaching people how to become an ensemble and really create art together.”
Through the combined efforts of students and the staff, rehearsals now take place three times a week. Heinlein is still optimistic about the chances of a socially distanced fall concert.
“I’m trying to figure out the logistics of putting together a drive in concert, where we set up in a parking lot and we can reserve a set of four spaces in a parking lot for each car,” Heinlein said.
Band students aren’t the only musicians who have found themselves adjusting to this unusual Fall semester. Many recording arts students have had to adjust to producing music from inside their homes. Mike Moreland, who has been teaching at JCCC for the past twenty-five years, had never taught an online course before last spring.
“It just takes a lot of planning and it’s not easy not being in the same room and not being able to take their mouse or show them on their mouse, show them on the screen where they need to be,” Moreland said.
While it has been a struggle, Moreland has taken this as an opportunity to learn about the programs that his students have been using, and he hopes that as the semester continues, he can improve his ability to teach entirely online.
After the jazz ensemble finished, the concert band took over the garage. Hank Lancaster switched from the bass trombone to the tuba, and Helena Kopp, who plays piano for the jazz ensemble, switched to playing percussion.
“I feel like in the beginning, I thought it was going to be really hard to get everybody together to play, but honestly it’s been really good, and I feel like a lot of us are here and just trying to have a fun band class,” Kopp said. “We’re probably going to get into the groove and be able to really practice well.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the Fall semester, students and staff have adapted. Those who attend the band practices, and those who learn to create their own compositions through Zoom, do so because they have a deep love and passion for their crafts. Though the world outside may be chaotic, the east parking lot of the Carlsen Center offers a safe place for students to learn and create together.
“Luckily the students have been very flexible and patient with it,” Reinlein said. “We’re just working out the bugs, one by one, but I think we’re still going to have a fairly successful year, regardless of where we’re at.”
By Jason Yearout