Six months ago, music students at Montclair State University probably did not imagine themselves beginning their fall 2020 semester with band and choral rehearsals on the seventh floor of a parking garage, yet now they are.
On Thursday, Aug. 27, the doors reopened for face-to-face instruction for music majors at Montclair State. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has silenced the halls of the John J. Cali School of Music for the last half year, things were a little different.
Taking place on one of the upper levels of Red Hawk Deck, symphonic orchestras and melodic voices were heard echoing throughout the building, restoring life and music to the campus.
With Dr. Thomas McCauley in charge of the symphonic orchestra and the chorus under the direction of Dr. Heather Buchanan, students sounded as though they never stopped.
Anthony Mazzocchi, director of the John J. Cali School of Music, said the faculty and students have been incredible in planning for the new semester.
According to Mazzocchi, the program has also designed a plan to accommodate out-of-state and international students, as well as students who are unable to make it to campus this semester.
“I’ve seen some incredibly innovative ways of delivering instruction both online and in hybrid formats,” Mazzocchi said. “As far as the science being face-to-face music making, we have come up with some great ways to perform together.”
Victoria Domiciano, a junior musical education major and chorus student, says the transition to new safety protocols has been fairly easy when it comes to creating sound.
“The university is providing us with special masks that allow us to sing with full resonance while protecting us,” Domiciano said. “The difficult part is knowing that the expressive part of singing, [also known as] the emotions we portray through facial expressions while we sing, will be hindered.”
Following the scientific research obtained from the University of Colorado Boulder, the school is also providing bell covers for instruments in an effort to prevent aerosol transmission of the virus. These “instrument masks” will be used with the transition to indoor rehearsals in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Sara Marcus, a senior music therapy major, is hopeful about this year’s concerts, guest speakers and master classes despite them moving to virtual screenings.
“I’m looking forward to our virtual concerts and showing others that despite our setbacks, music isn’t going anywhere,” Marcus said.
Many students like Bella Rochford, a junior music therapy major, are merely excited to get back into the swing of things.
“During this pandemic, I’ve learned to never take anything for granted,” Rochford said. “So this year, I’m really looking forward to creating amazing music, reconnecting with friends and making the most of my time here at [Montclair State] while I can.”
As for future expectations, Mazzocchi is looking forward to providing an eventful year for those in the music program.
“My expectation is that we will innovate, provide great education and training to our current students, reflect on areas for growth that this pandemic has amplified and build a school of music ready to thrive like we have never seen before in 2021,” he said.
With the excitement and passion put forth by both the staff and students, there is no doubt that the music program will prosper amidst these ever-changing and unprecedented times.