Bell covers and slit masks – How COVID has impacted the Enochs music program

With the return of in-person learning came a new set of challenges for the music program to overcome in order to be able to play this year.

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Abigayle McKinney, Managing Editor

You’ve read the headlines, you’ve heard the stories, you’ve even experienced it yourself: COVID-19 has impacted everyone. 

For the Enochs music program, this last year has been about learning how to roll with the punches and make the most out of the resources they have been given in light of the pandemic. 

In a music class, student’s thrive on the energy and the sound of the people around them – it’s what makes a band a band, or an orchestra an orchestra. 

Mr. Garibay, the Enochs music director, says it best: “The word ensemble, that means together, and we were not together physically. I feel like that affected the students quite a bit, so being back in person is… is just beautiful.” 

Being apart from each other for so long was hard for the music students, and despite all of the resources that were made available to help improve their experience, nothing beats being in a classroom together making music. 

Music student Cooper Graf was asked about what it felt like to be back in the classroom and play in an ensemble for the first time. “It felt relieving almost, because it’s the first step towards getting normal with band again,” he said.

With the return of in-person learning after being away for so long, it wouldn’t come as a shock to know that the sound of the band may be different now – not just because of the Covid-19 mandates, but because the students didn’t have the same motivation to practice as they would in a normal school setting while they were at home. 

This begs the question: has the band’s sound been impacted by their time at home? 

Mr. Garibay responded by saying, “Sure, maybe some people lost a bit of endurance, maybe some range, maybe technical facility on the instrument, but all that can be taught again. When we’re messing with the mechanics behind how an instrument works, right, adding bell covers, that is actually more detrimental to the sound of the band.” 

The COVID-19 mandates were hard enough for music students last year being at home, but coming back to school has brought on a new set of challenges.

Band students in particular are feeling the effects of the mandates. They have to wear special masks with slits in them for their mouthpieces to go through, and they also have to wear covers over the bells of their instruments in an attempt to stop the spread of germs. 

But are these mandates effective?

When music student Paige Carr was asked whether or not she felt that these mandates are effective, she answered, “The masks are kind of ridiculous, especially the ones that have the fold-over because people just leave them open. And the bell covers I don’t feel do all that much to help.” 

Cooper Graf agreed that he didn’t see a point in the special masks, when they could wear normal masks and just pull them down when needed. 

However, these masks and bell covers are what give students the ability to be able to play at all – which is something both Paige Carr and Cooper Graf recognized in their interviews. Despite their frustrations, they seem to have accepted the fact that these mandates are what they have to deal with in order to play. 

“I really appreciate that the district is going out of its way to provide us with the PPE that’s required for us to be able to play indoors. If we didn’t have that support, I think we’d have to deal with a lot more restrictions” says Mr. Garibay. 

And Mr. Garibay makes a good point – without bells covers, slit masks, or distancing rules, there might not even be a band to hear because it simply wouldn’t be possible. 

The bell covers and face masks provide more than just the challenge of making sure everyone has them and is being safe; it also diminishes the motivation of students to practice because they know they won’t sound the same at school as they do at home. 

“It’s still hard to find the motivation to practice, if you’re not going to sound good anyway and you can’t play the high notes,” reflected Paige Carr. 

But not all the effects of the mandates have been bad. There are some things – such as online software – that Mr. Garibay thinks he will continue to use after the pandemic ends.

“Things like Smart Music, for instance, I think that should be a standard for a music program. I think things like sight reading factory should also be something that is standard for every school, just because they’re really great software.” 

At the end of the day, the Covid mandates and impacts of being home for 18 months are obstacles – but ones the music program has been able to overcome and move forward from. 

The music program’s pep band has been performing at all the Enochs home football games, the marching band has been preparing for their first competitions, and all of the ensembles have been practicing music and have performances scheduled for later on this year. 

These bell covers, slit masks, distancing rules and even the exposure rules have not stopped the music program from coming back this year in full swing, ready to show the school everything they have to offer.