“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing, to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.” John Keats
To say the least, it’s been a challenging time for us all. As recently as three years ago, we could not have imagined wearing masks in rehearsals or being required to be vaccinated for anything or even hoarding toilet paper. Now those issues are part of our daily lives. How things have changed!
Most of us have had to change with the times, especially if we want to remain in our positions. Except for Doug*, who has not changed because he refuses to. He contacted me to support his views but was very disappointed with my response.
Last spring, Doug “retired” a few years earlier than planned from his community college choral job. And tells me he’s happy he left when he did because he was tired of following the mask regulations at his institution. He feels his choral program suffered because of those restrictions and he was tired of making allowances for the Pandemic. Aren’t we all, Doug. He did follow all the vaccination mandates and feels that’s enough if everyone else follows through with their own vaccinations.
He wanted my approval for being so “exacting in the choral rehearsal” that he does not want the sound muffled by masks of any kind, singing or otherwise. Doug hates having his standards, his very high standards I am told, being lowered by anyone, including his college’s administration.
After “enduring” rehearsals and concerts on Zoom for months, he was furious to learn there would be mask mandates when his college went back to on-campus in-person classes in the fall of 2021. He tried to convince the Music Department chair to allow his choruses to sing without masks. He tried bargaining for masked rehearsals but mask free concerts. He changed tactics and suggested mask free rehearsals but masked concerts. The Music Department Chair stood her ground because this was not just a music department policy or anything she could change, but a campus-wide policy. It could not change, no matter how much Doug tried to convince her.
During an absolutely miserable fall semester, for Doug and everyone he worked with, he put in for early retirement (getting 95% of his pension, so not terrible for him). He “retired” with the caveat he would be willing to continue for two more years if mask mandates were dropped for his choruses. The college president asked him out to lunch after receiving his retirement letter and explained in detail why they wouldn’t be able to allow only his choruses to go unmasked, while the rest of the college was masked. Doug dug in his heels and told him he would no longer be forced to lower his standards and would be retiring after the spring semester. And he did.
I wish I could tell you Doug saw the errors of his ways, but he did not. It was not so much a matter of masks, per say, but of his perception he was being forced to lower his standards. No amount of “everyone else has had to mask as well” or “we’re in this together so we should be smart with the science” and “if choral music is to endure through the pandemic, we need to make adjustments during these difficult times” type back and forth with him could change his mind. He was very stubborn about the whole thing, so we left it at that; he has a right to his own standards and beliefs.
We ALL have had to change because of the Pandemic. I don’t see masking as lowering standards but as changing standards because we HAVE HAD TO. Before the Pandemic, we’d change because of our own life experiences, becoming stricter or more lenient or different in other ways, when it made sense. We evolved as musicians and as people but very few of us have stayed the same. We shouldn’t stay the same because that means we are stagnant. And that’s not healthy.