With one-third of Valley Lutheran students enrolled in music classes, the August 2020 completion of the new music room was a timely blessing. The substantially larger space has made it possible for the music program to adapt to distance requirements: “The new room is incredible! In the year of COVID, the extra space means that we are actually able to hold rehearsals safely. I’m not sure we could have accomplished this in the old music room,” notes Lindsay Mueller, director of Valley Lutheran’s Wind Ensemble.
Before the pandemic was even on the horizon, the new music room was intentionally designed not only with more space for students and storage but with acoustics in mind. Mueller explains how the new room enhances the program significantly: “The attention to detail in the acoustics of the new room has allowed our students to refine and hone their musical ear. They listen better and are able to practice in a more realistic environment. When they step onto a stage, it will sound the same to their ears as if they were playing in the classroom.”
Valley’s Symphonic Band director, Rebecca Sugden, has noticed the acoustic difference, not only for the students but also in her experience as a director: “Because the room is acoustically treated, it’s significantly healthier for the students and director to be playing in the room. I’m able to hear a lot more of the sound, and we’re able to balance better than we were in the old space.”
Paul Eschmann, director of both the Mixed Chorus and Golden Voice choirs shares similar praise for the acoustics and the added space: “The choirs have been able to move around the room more. This allows us to hear ourselves in different ways. We’ve been able to incorporate new warm-up techniques, such a body percussion, that help us to improve our craft!”
While it has been a blessing to be able to play and sing in person for most of the school year, COVID
restrictions have added a number of challenges to the music program. The cleaning procedures take up more classtime, students have to wear masks as much as possible, and the necessary distancing makes it more difficult to hear each other. Among the biggest disappointments for the musicians has been the cancellation of concerts and the annual Lenten tour, and the suspension of extra-curricular music groups.
But there have been a number of bright spots hidden in the pandemic protcols. Even though choir members must sing through masks, Eschmann notes, “It has helped them focus on their breathing. I can’t wait to unleash them to sing without masks!”
The Symphonic Band was able to participate in the Band and Orchestra Festival by submitting a recording of their two pieces. According to Sugden, “We spent time learning how to listen and balance for recordings as opposed to live performance, which was a new skill set we all needed to learn.”
Another blessing bestowed on the music department this year has been the addition of a Steinway baby grand piano. The students love it! Of all the new spaces, “I have enjoyed the choir room the most, especially the new grand piano. There is so much more room, and the acoustics make everything sound amazing,” according to junior Emma VanTol.
The music department is working to make the Spring Concert happen in May. Look for more details soon!