COVID-19 has brought changes to concerts and jazz bands at Panola College, but they are working hard to make it happen.
Band manager Dwaine Hubbard said they are working as hard as possible to bring a performance to the people of Carthage, whether it’s outdoors or virtual.
“I think we could do some little pop-up performances, either on campus or in the plaza somewhere,” he said. “Things are so abnormal right now. Friday nights in Texas are football nights with a big fanfare, and those things just aren’t happening right now. So we’re trying to get back to where we can do that kind of thing. things.”
The band is taking many physical precautions when it comes to COVID-19 safety. They have performance masks with a hole cut in the middle to insert their instrument. Flutists have face shields with a notch cut into the edge to accommodate their flute. Beneath their spaced-out chairs are pup pads to catch condensation.
“Brass produces water,” Hubbard said. “When you blow hot air over a cold tube, it produces condensation. Now the colloquial word for that is spit, spit valves. It’s not. It’s condensation. But it’s just something that happens so one of my students came with me and we cut up 150 of these puppy pads and so what the students do is they dump their water on their pad for puppy, then at the end of the course, they throw it in the trash when they leave.”
All chairs are spread out to give people plenty of space between; everyone in the strip room has their own six-by-six bubble, Hubbard said.
“Normally, students would bring their instruments to the back of an instrument room. We don’t do that anymore,” he said. “We keep it on their chair, keep their music. When they walk in the door, each kid takes a Clorox swab from the door and they sanitize their hands. Then they come in, we play.
“They have their masks; each child has been given two masks which are performance masks, so they can swap each day. We only play 30 minutes. Almost every rehearsal we’ve had, we’ve had I think two or three rehearsals with everyone you see in the room. Usually we did half at a time, so on Tuesday I just had the brass, which is at the back of the room. Yesterday I I just had the woodwinds, the front end of the room. Today I just had the percussion, way back of the room.”
Students also have procedures for leaving: after the 30-minute rehearsal is over, they clean their seats and anything they touch before exiting through the side doors.
“We’re going so the air conditioner can circulate the air out of the room, and the science says it wants to make sure the air circulates at least once between classes,” Hubbard said. “So we have an orchestra at 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m. we’re done, we leave. At 3 p.m. a jazz band arrives, and we move the chairs back, they don’t sit on the same chairs. We use different chairs, stands different to avoid cross contamination.
Hubbard said there are several challenges to doing things this way, and his students would likely agree with him that they prefer the usual, non-COVID way of doing things.
“We’re rehearsing half as long, which means we’re probably learning half as much music as we normally would,” he said. “Normally we’d play a gig the second week of October, and we’d have five compositions that the band would play, the jazz band would play five or six, and that would give us an hour of music. Probably realistically, we’ I’m going to do three compositions for the orchestra.
“The jazz band, we had four tracks that we actually started last spring before we closed that we never got to play. So we took them out and worked on them pretty quickly. The jazz band will have to probably play a few more songs. We’ll probably play six, so it’ll probably be six and two or six and three to get a full gig.
However, they are doing their best, and Hubbard hopes student musicians can start playing spring basketball games and other traditional events again.
“We’re looking at that, (asking) will the Lions be able to have a show so the band can play the Lions Club show? Are we going to be able to do our regular shows in the spring?” he said. “If we can do that, then I think we’ll feel like we’ve made this school year as successful as possible.”