“My sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.” Robert Frost
Those of you teaching in-person with COVID-19 restrictions are encountering dilemmas you never expected to have. And solutions are not clear-cut. Here are Choral Ethics dilemmas from two ChoralNetters I’ve received recently.
Devon* started the school year in early August. They contacted me soon after because they weren’t sure what to do. What do you think?
Things started out well enough, with in-person classes, in-person choral rehearsals and band rehearsals and orchestra rehearsals. Devon’s district, a well-to-do district in a well-to-do suburb of a middle-size city in the Midwest, pulled out all the stops for COVID-19 adaptations. They received, without asking, reusable singing masks for all their choruses, plus extras. Devon thought it was a good idea to keep their singing masks in the student’s individual music folders, to be used ONLY for choral rehearsals. Since they are singing masks, and quite pricey, Devon thought it just makes sense to keep them in the choral room, with the music folders, in the music folder storage unit when not in use. The music department chair also felt it was a good idea, since the masks ARE pricey, and he wasn’t sure they could ask for replacements if they were lost or left at home. Each mask is designated for each singer so using the extras would mean someone would have two or three masks if they forgot to bring theirs back.
Most of Devon’s students are fine with this arrangement but one senior soprano is NOT. She’s also riled up her parents enough that they are threatening to speak with a “friend” on the school board. Why is she upset? Because she wants to use her school provided singing mask for her church choir. The mask she uses for her church choir is a regular mask and, the young soprano tells Devon, not as good or comfortable for singing. She wants to take her mask with her and SWEARS she will bring it back to school every day she has a chorus rehearsal. Devon has been teaching high school-age choruses for ten years, and while they believe the soprano would try to bring her mask the days needed, Devon has been teaching high school level singers for ten years and doubts that would always happen.
I suggested Devon treat the masks the way they would treat music or chorus uniforms or any other thing belonging to the music department to be used outside of school; the students could sign them out. And furthermore, misplacing or forgetting to bring masks to choral rehearsals would mean they would have to sing with their regular masks on those days, not one of the “extra” singing masks. As well, the student would be expected to PAY for any mask lost. Another alternative would be to sell the extra masks to students who would like one for projects outside of school, perhaps using the money to purchase more of them or give the parents information about purchasing singing masks on their own. Devon will consult with the music department chair about which solution makes the most sense to him; another COVID-19 problem we never expected to have to solve.
Gennifer* also contacted me within the last few weeks. She is tired, after postponing and rescheduling or cancelling her in-person concerts, having to deal with the disappointment of her students. Isn’t there a way to phrase or present the information so it’s not so painful for her students—or for herself?
I wish I had a good, solid answer for Gennifer, but I didn’t. Concerts need to be cancelled during These Times for good reasons. We all, intellectually, know cancelling and postponing concerts make sense, but our hearts still hurt. I suggested forming a “Plan B,” WITH her students, in the event a concert needs to be cancelled. It might turn out the same, but it might lessen the hurt.
GENNIFER UPDATE: Gennifer emailed over the weekend, and her students decided they would like to film all preparations and rehearsals for each of their planned concerts as their “Plan B.” The Film Studies teacher will film and, after each concert (if not in-person, each concert will be filmed), edit. The students decided they are going to make a documentary about their high school choruses and their second year of Pandemic singing. Good for them!
Until next week, be well and safe!
I am taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page for the foreseeable future but am not able to today–some rehearsal prep etc. so a GOOD reason–see you next week!