By Alejandra Garcia
Enrollment in the Amarillo College music department has increased this spring semester. The department’s numbers have risen to 30 from last semester’s count of 15.
“I think it’s due to being able to still meet, with modifications, in person,” Camille Nies, the chair of music and theater, said. These modifications include social distancing protocols, smaller group sizes and masking even in choirs. She said recitals are being done strictly online to minimize exposure to large crowds. Nies said there are air purifiers with built-in UVC lighting in each rehearsal space, teaching studio, classroom and practice room to help keep air circulating and disinfected.
“We have to sanitize chairs, stands and everything anybody has touched,” Carol Parks, a music therapy major, said. “You really have to be blatant that you’re following the rules.” She said students aren’t allowed to practice for more than 45 minutes without a break. Students must leave the room for 15 minutes to allow it to air out.
“If it’s a one-on-one lesson, we have two pianos and in between is the Plexiglas,” Dr. Bruce Lin, the director of piano, said. “There’s a bottle of hand sanitizer on the pianos and when we’re done, we wipe them down with wipes.” He said students are knowledgeable about COVID guidelines and if they are quarantined, they attend Zoom classes online. “Music is an essential part of education,” Dr. Lin said. “The students here and faculties are working so hard to continue to provide music to the community.”
“Each student signs up for a specific time,” Chancellor Barbaree, a professional tutor of music, said. “It’s usually a one-on-one experience. We stay distanced and masked and then I make my rounds to make sure everybody’s getting what they need from me.” He said being able to get a one-on-one lesson is definitely a blessing. “But it works better when you’re in person, you have that human-to-human contact, even if it’s at a distance.”
“We rehearsed outdoors as much as possible but we’re back indoors and social distancing,” Nathaniel Fryml, director of choral activities, said. “Singers rely on each other to adjust pitch and tone. Masks make this difficult but we noticed rehearsing outside allowed them to grow much faster because of having to overcome barriers.”
Fryml said his students are preparing their online presentations for the semester with much more confidence. The number of students in the chorus has also increased with people wanting to come back after initially leaving due to choral activities being deemed high risk.
“So many people come alive with singing, you grow to trust people beside you. To connect, that’s what people are struggling with today,” Fryml said. “Music may be the part that helps people trust in each other again.”