Making the Most of the Pandemic: Band and Orchestra Operations During Covid-19

Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, Lexington High School’s bands and orchestras continue to rehearse, perform, and give back to the community. 

To rehearse in-person, students have been 15 feet apart in the auditorium, all while being fully masked. With some students fully remote and others spaced apart in-person, practicing as a group has presented challenges. 

“Since all of the rehearsals are hybrid, we are catering to both the kids at home and the kids in-person, which at first was a little bit of a struggle,” Jessica Billings-White, the LHS Repertoire and Symphony Orchestra director, said. 

Nonetheless, the LHS Performing Arts teachers, including Rachel Jayson and Billngs-White, have worked hard to overcome these barriers. 

“The setup Ms. Billings-White and Ms. Jayson have is crazy, with mics, multiple computers, a metronome and audio sharing, displaying the online students on the whiteboard, and showing the in-person students on Zoom, for example. I think they are doing the best job that they possibly can to make the class work and for us to actually play music,” Navya Sammeta, a junior in Repertoire Orchestra, said.

The hassle of coordinating online and hybrid students aside, this pandemic has provided the band and orchestra departments more time to focus on topics such as social justice issues and formal performances. 

“Believe it or not, the Lexington K-12 Performing Arts Department [normally] has about 286 performances a year. That is a lot, so it keeps us really busy. Without the pressure of having consistent concerts, it has been giving us a chance to step back a little bit and really dig around into some topics, some themes, and some other opportunities across the district,” Jared Cassedy, the K-12 Performing Arts coordinator, said. 

For example, the LHS Wind Ensemble is performing a piece this year called “Of Our New Day Begun” by Omar Thomas, written to honor those who lost their lives to a shooting at the Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The ensemble will be incorporating student testimonies and commentary around experiences of African American to amplify the impact of their virtual recording.

“Through that, we have had a lot of conversations around social justice issues, human rights, civil rights, LGTBQ+ rights. It’s been really fantastic,” Cassedy said. 

Although this year has posed a unique set of challenges, these positive experiences have left students and teachers with important takeaways and optimism for the future. 

“A lot of this year has been spontaneous and taught us to adapt to changing plans every day in rehearsal. I think that is a very important life skill to have regardless. We are all just learning to be optimistic when unseen challenges arise in this uncertain time,” Sammeta said.