Band and choir virtually alter popular winter concerts

Several+trumpet+players+from+the+De+Soto+High+School+band+perform+with+their+masks+and+bell+covers+to+minimize+the+spread+of+germs+during+their+concert+on+Dec.+14.+

Dylan McIntrye

Several trumpet players from the De Soto High School band perform with their masks and bell covers to minimize the spread of germs during their concert on Dec. 14.

Ella Fixsen, Editor in Chief

With virtual learning being the main source of education for De Soto High School students at this time, many have experienced alterations regarding regular school activities. Among these activities were the winter band and choir concerts, both of which are traditionally large community events. However, this year’s band and choir students were able to perform, but only in the absence of their biggest fans. The winter band concert was held on Dec. 14 while the choir concert took place on Dec. 16. 

Because learning has become virtual for all DHS students, both the band and choir directors were focused on finding a way for students to prepare for the concert on their own. 

“Preparation was definitely a lot different this year. We weren’t able to practice together as a group, and some of it had to be on zoom,” said junior band member Emma Klingler. “Practicing on zoom was definitely difficult because of WiFi problems and delays. To try to avoid that, we just played by ourselves while muted, listening to a recording of our song.”

Although online practice was a helpful preparation tool, both the band and choir only had one full in-person rehearsal before their final winter performance. 

“We were able to have only one rehearsal as a whole group before the concert,” Klingler said. “This was difficult because we had to make some adjustments, and we weren’t used to hearing all of the parts together.”

Because of the lack of in-person preparation, choir director Mindy Fry worried about the sound of the final performance. However, she believes that the students performed well considering the environment they were in. 

“It went smoother than I thought, which was nice,” Fry said. “The kids were on time for the most part and they knew what to do, so all of that helped things to run smoothly.” 

Klingler, who directly contributed to the band concert’s production, believes that she and fellow band members put on the best show that they were able to. 

“I think it went pretty well, all things considered,” Klingler said. “I think if it was a normal year we definitely would have sounded better, but I think we sounded really good, especially since we only had one real rehearsal together.”

One major difference noted by the performing students was the lack of an audience. This was quite unusual for veteran members, mainly due to the fact that the winter concerts are a large attraction for family, friends and the De Soto community. 

“It was pretty weird with no spectators because after we would finish a song it felt like we were waiting on the applause that would not happen,” said senior choir member Megan Brownell. 

Fry also noticed how the students were affected by the lack of applause after each musical number.

“The kids didn’t like not having an audience. It’s similar to sports. You feed off the energy from the crowd,” Fry said. “They said they missed the applause and knowing that their loved ones were out there cheering them on and supporting them.”

Klingler agrees, feeling that this year’s concert was much less formal than years prior. 

“I’m so used to seeing my friends and family in the bleachers, having a meal beforehand and other things like that. It felt really odd to just sit down, play and leave,” Klingler said. 

Several concert participants, including band director Matthew Bradford, felt as though the concert did not bring about the same emotions as a typical final performance. 

 “It felt more like a practice because we don’t have an audience for practices,” Bradford said. “It felt like a final run-through before a concert.”

As unusual as the concerts were, one thing that felt very familiar to students was the sight of fellow band and choir members. 

“It was really nice to hear everyone together, and I got to see some people I haven’t seen since March,” Brownell said. 

Although COVID-19 safety guidelines are still in place, students were able to have slight interactions with other students. 

“You could tell that everyone was so happy to see each other which really made it a fun experience, even though we didn’t have a ton of time to catch up or socialize,” Klingler said.

Fry also enjoyed the experience of seeing her students interact with one another during an unconventional time period. 

“I’m glad that we were able to provide that opportunity for students,” Fry said. “I forget that sometimes kids don’t have the opportunity to leave the house, so a lot of them expressed how nice it was just to see people. It was good for our hearts.”

Bradford was very excited to be able to host a gathering not only for students, but also for concerned parents. 

“When we went totally virtual, we sent out an email to the parents asking if they were comfortable with [having a concert] and most of the parents emailed us back and said ‘please do something. This is the one thing they’re going to get all year. Everything else has been canceled,’” Bradford said.

Because no spectators were allowed to view the concerts in-person, both Bradford and Fry had to create a plan for family members to view the performance. This was no easy task, considering the fact that directly posting the video on YouTube or any other social media platform would be illegal. 

“We had to stay within copyright complaints, so that was the big issue,” Bradford said. “We recorded audio and video together and we’re going to put it into Canvas so it’s ‘educational.’ It’ll be there for a couple of days so [band members] can send the link to their parents and grandparents and then we’ll take it down. Unfortunately, legally we can’t share it with anyone who is not related to the class.”

Overall, Bradford and Fry are very proud of their students for overcoming difficulties brought about by the current pandemic. 

“There was a lot of pressure on the kids to step up to the moment, so we are super proud of them,” Bradford said. “I’m glad at least we got to put this out there.”

Both are anticipating a more well-prepared body of performers for the next big concert, but are appreciating their students’ hard work until then. 

 “2020 has been really hard and everybody has learned a lot of new skills and a lot of new things about themselves, so we’re just changing and adapting as we move forward,” Fry said. “I was really proud of how well they came together and persevere through something really strange.”