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FA Series: Choir adjusts to face to face and virtual classes

With classes being delivered in hybrid and online format in addition to some face-to-face classes, the music department is adjusting to the changes in place this semester, specifically those in the realm of vocal music.

Bruce Kelley, Interim Dean of the College Fine Arts, said because singing is an efficient way to spread the virus, special precautions are being taken for vocal instruction courses. 

“We are using all three modalities. We have tried to maintain as many of our face-to-face courses as we could,” Kelley said. “The obvious challenge is to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible, and that is uppermost in our minds.”

Many private voice lessons, Kelley said, have been moved to specially converted “Zoom rooms,” which allow students and instructors to be in separate rooms during their lesson but still communicate effectively.

In terms of the vocal ensembles at USD, there will be a mix of online and in-person meetings. The USD Chamber Singers will be meeting face-to-face, but with an altered rehearsal schedule and broken into smaller groups to maintain social distance.

For the USD Concert Choir and Men’s and Women’s Chorus, rehearsals will happen virtually.

Timothy Campbell, assistant music professor and choir director, said although this semester looks different, he’s still looking forward to working with students — even if it’s through a computer screen.

“This can be a semester of incredible growth with increased individual feedback for dedicated students,” Campbell said. “We also want to demonstrate resilience during this challenging time and look forward to connecting with our students and championing the vocal arts regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.”

Even with the changes in place, Kelley said he’s still enjoyed interacting with students and faculty he hasn’t seen since last spring.

“It is just downright cool to see everyone walking through the doors,” Kelley said. “I am excited about this year, despite the challenge, and I am excited about what we will learn and create in a year that demands the best of what we have to offer.”

With choir rehearsals being a mix of both online and in-person, live performances will also be different than in previous semesters. For the time being, indoor concerts for all large USD ensembles will be streamed online without a live audience present.

Kelley said with the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 situation, it has been difficult planning the semester.

“The great thing about challenges is that they force us to generate creative solutions — you could say that’s the lifeblood of the fine arts,” Kelley said. “I think some of the changes we are making — like greatly expanding our performance streaming options — will actually make us stronger as we look down the road at our post-COVID classroom experiences.”

As the semester continues, the music department is prepared to make changes as needed, but for now, Campbell said the main goal is to keep music alive while creating the safest environment possible for students, faculty and staff.

“As singers, our greatest asset is our greatest enemy,” Campbell said. “We gather together and move significant amounts of air as we strive to create something beautiful. That sounded so innocent before COVID and now the act of moving all that air, for the time being, keeps us distanced or apart.”