Getting the Band Back Together

Upper/Middle School Band Director Becky Long and MS/US Instrumental Music Instructor Josh Baumgartner were excited to welcome band students back to campus. The only problem was: how would they gather band students so that they could play together safely? In addition to beautiful music, instruments tend to expel, well, particles. And how does a brass or woodwind musician play in a mask? Band class isn’t exactly the easiest thing to pull off in a pandemic.

Long and Baumgartner got to work, and their results are nothing short of amazing. Our Middle and Upper School band students returned to the classroom recently, ready to learn but with new logistics and procedures in place to keep everyone safe.

The music teachers used data from an NFHS-sponsored study on aerosols and the Return to Campus Guidelines from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, the advice of School Nurses Stephanie Presson and Michelle Fox, and input from the Director of Student Support Services Vicki Thurman to develop our MICDS Band Reopening Protocols.

Here are a few of the details:

MASKS

All students and instruments will be masked at all times in Band, with the exception of flutes/flute players. Instrumentalists wear either a disposable mask with a precut slit in the middle of the pleats, or a reusable fabric mask with overlapping panels that allow access to the instrument while playing and cover the mouth when not. Percussion musicians wear their regular, daily masks, and flute players put their masks on when not playing. Flute players cannot wear masks while they play, so the teachers created flute pods that keep each student separate. A flute pod keeps aerosols close to the student and our new air ionization and filtration system drops any particles to the ground.

INSTRUMENT BAGS & BELL COVERS

Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, and Bari Sax students are given clear plastic bags to cover their instruments while they are being played. These bags will have a drawstring that is tied around the neck area of the instrument and small holes cut in the sides for the student’s hands. The bags keep potential aerosols contained to the bag and our air ionization and filtration system takes care of any particles that may escape. Brass instruments have a plastic bag over their bells and over their water keys. Students empty their water keys into the bags and dispose of them at the end of class. We are starting this process with all disposable options, but will be transferring to reusable options as soon as fabric bags and covers are made.

PERCUSSION

Percussion students have been given their own sets of sticks and/or mallets to use. Sticks and mallets are kept in a plastic bag in an assigned spot with the other students’ instruments and do not need to go back and forth from home to school. Percussion instruments are cleaned between each use.

INSTRUMENT STORAGE

Upper School students have access to lockers for instrument storage only. Long and Baumgartner spaced out the locker assignments and manage access to the locker area to ensure adherence to social distancing requirements.

MUSIC

All music/written materials will be left at school during the week, stored next to the student’s instrument. At the end of the week, Long and Baumgartner will collect the music and place it in a crate so nothing gets lost over the weekend. If desired, students can take a second copy of their music home to practice, and all of the music that this year, including music from the method books, will be accessible from home via SmartMusic.

CLASS SPACES AND SIZE

The Upper School Band uses the band room and Orthwein Theatre for classes, ensuring we never have more than 14 students in one space at one time. Baumgartner and Long each teach a group in their own space.

Middle School band students gather in Eliot Chapel, which means their music is consistently drifting through Danforth Hall, a welcome addition to the school day.