PRHS Music Department Isn’t Falling Flat With These COVID-19 Restrictions

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Photo by Amber Wright

Photo of Gabby Ward (12), a trombone player, during Wind Ensemble practice.

By Amaya Taylor, Reporter

The Palmer Ridge Music Department is doing more than just getting by this year. They are thriving with the guidelines placed upon them, and the department is only going up from here. Although they have been faced with many challenges, Mr. Butch Eversole, the Band Director, and Dr. MaryAnn Brilleslyper, the Choir Director, have really turned the current situation into something beautiful.

The Choir Department, lead by Dr. Brilleslyper, is handling COVID very well, with strict guidelines in place to keep everyone safe. “Our choir practices are full of lots of rules this year that we’ve never had to maintain before… I try to keep nine feet apart from every singer and we have to wear masks at all times. Both of these things are very inhibiting in a music rehearsal,” said Dr. Brilleslyper.

Singing with masks on is challenging enough, but singers also have to be spaced out, which means even more noise is necessary to fill the empty spaces, as Dr. Brilleslyper mentioned. Celeste Woody (11), an aspiring classical singer, agrees with this sentiment. “It’s a little difficult singing in the masks, but we sound just as good and Dr. B is super helpful…” Woody said.

Although it is hard to work around these restrictions, the choir department has managed to put on a wonderful concert successfully. “… We’ve already had a concert. And, we did it live and I was really, really proud of the kids [and] how they looked… they really pulled off the impossible,” said the Choir Director, Dr. Brilleslyper. If you want to watch the Bears sing in their Fall Concert and support all of their hard work, you can watch the video here. The concert was filmed by PR’s own Ridgeline.

Mackenzie Roehrig (12), a talented and dedicated student, put a positive spin on these hardships that the music department has had to face. “It’s incredible finding out how much you appreciate the things we don’t have and when our choir concerts roll around the energy shifts. It gives us hope that we will all get to sing together again,” Roehrig said.

Roehrig, along with Woody, Samantha Everton, Matilyn Davis, Jillian Laake, and Riana McHugh have all auditioned and qualified for the Colorado All-State Choir. Congratulations! The Bear Truth Staff wishes you well on your new journey.

It’s safe to say that the Choir Department, under Dr. B’s guidance, has learned so much from this pandemic.

PRHS band students socially distanced in the auditorium. Photo by Amaya Taylor.

Mr. Eversole and his group of gifted students are soaring through these restrictions as well. For example, the band students had to make a transition from the band room to the auditorium in order to follow social distancing guidelines.

“… The students are spaced out at least six feet side to side and nine feet front to back,” said Mr. Eversole. Although this is a necessary safety precaution, it has been quite an adjustment for the band students.

“It’s definitely weird and different, being all spaced apart… But I really think this will make our bond stronger, everyone having to play independently and exposed,” said Emma Bloomfield (10), a clarinet player.

Bloomfield, along with her fellow band peers, also wear specialized masks for instrument playing as shown in the picture above. “We designed special masks so that they can wear masks and still get their instrument through the mask in order to play it,” said Mr. Eversole.

These guidelines and adjustments make it harder to play an instrument at all, let alone cohesively play with a whole group. However, Gabby Ward (12), a trombone player, had nothing but positive comments on her experience being a part of the band during the pandemic.

“Mr. Eversole has been so… intuitive and creative during this whole process… I am extremely grateful for even the smallest amount of musical interaction I can get,” she said. This seems to be the common theme among the other student musicians, such as Ceci Eversole (10) and Ethan Matthews (11), as well.

But, how do the band students play online? This is a valid speculation that has an exceptionally innovative answer. Mr. Eversole created a system in which the online cohort joins a Google meet and they play along with the in-person cohort, using professional microphones so that the whole auditorium can hear them.

However, now that PRHS has gone fully remote for the time being, the Band Department has been left to do Google meets during their class time to discuss their music pieces and upcoming events. Mr. Eversole has even had the band students play along to recordings of themselves so that they can spot any potential errors.

The PRHS Music Department has really blown everyone away by “… pulling off the impossible,” as Dr. Brilleslyper put it. They have found a way to showcase everyone’s talents and keep them safe at the same time. Now that deserves true applause.