Heritage Band gets beat like a drum

Renee S. ’24 gets ready to practice her saxophone at home. Due to the shift to completely online school, the bands at Heritage have not been able to meet in person, so each student has to hold themselves accountable for practicing.

The concert and symphonic bands offered at Heritage normally meet three days a week while the jazz bands meet twice a week. In the hybrid schedule, they were each only available to meet in person for a single day each week. With the school district fully remote, now they aren’t even allowed that luxury. 

   “It’s strange to go from my entire schedule being filled with band events to none at all,” Kathryn Schultz ’21, the flute section leader, discloses. “I miss being able to play with others, I miss all the music we would’ve learned this year, I miss being able to travel to competitions and events, and I especially miss the people,” she adds.

   When the shutdown was announced over email to the families of Heritage, many students were distraught at the news. 

   “I remember a lot of my friends being absolutely devastated at the news of the shutdown, but I don’t think the full weight of the closure would hit me until we were well into the lockdown,” Schultz ’21 expresses.

   Students and staff have struggled mentally during this shift to all online school, however, many are trying to maintain a positive attitude amidst the deterrence.

   “I have a very realistic outlook on this situation, as I try to stay positive about what we have while also recognizing that it’s not ideal and really sucks sometimes,” describes saxophone section leader Lauren Swartwout ’21.

   While most classes adapted to completely online schooling for the rest of the semester, band posed a struggle. How would kids practice if they can’t meet in person? What assignments would be given to show that students are, in fact, in a class? 

   “Band has shifted from making music together by playing songs in the band room to online tasks that deepen our understanding of music theory and composition,” Swartwout ’21 explains regarding the new band workload. 

   More band students input their thoughts on the revised band class. 

   “I don’t really think it can be described as a band class anymore, but it fits more as a music-related-project class,” inputs Davey Aguilera ’23, a trumpet player.

   “That’s still fun and all, but there’s no other feeling in the world like 70 totally different people coming together in one room to create something beautiful,” trumpet section leader Garrett Goemans ’21 justifies.

   While being kept away from school, students are beginning to feel the repercussions of having to play alone. 

   “Playing with people is 90% of the joy that comes from music, however, the joy of playing music faded at the absolute beginning of the pandemic, and this is just another blow that has left me with ten months of lonely playing,” illustrates clarinetist David Pera ’23.

   “Playing alone in your room while your parents are trying to work is nowhere near as enjoyable as playing in a full band setting with a group of people you enjoy,” Swartwout ’21 adds.

   While students are struggling with motivation, band director Mr. Garren Cuthrell has begun assigning more projects that it’s becoming borderline stressful for some students. 

   “I find that band class has not only ceased from being a stress reliever, but also started adding more work to my plate,” Swartwout ’21 reveals. 

   Despite most of the situation looking bleak, band has actually been quite helpful for students and, especially before the shutdown, it has been a thing to look forward to in someone’s busy day. 

   “Mr. Cuthrell is just a real funny guy that makes band class much more enjoyable even without technically being in a band,” Aguilera ’23 explains.

   Other students have similar feelings regarding band and music during online school. 

   “Whenever I feel really down or overstressed, I take time away from my day to just jam out on whatever instrument I’m feeling like playing,” Goemans ’21 reveals, “Honestly, the pandemic has really been great for my abilities regarding the instruments I play.”

   “I enjoy playing music to unwind and take my mind off of how crazy school is right now,” describes trumpet player Ian Schultz ’23.

   Band plays an important role in many students’ lives, so while they cannot meet in person for the time being, students look forward to when they are allowed to play together and make the music they work so hard to perfect.

   “Playing alongside others really makes me feel like I’m working toward something bigger than myself, which just strikes a sense of awe in me whenever I hear the band, after much practice and deliberation, sound like a purely magnanimous ensemble,” Aguilera ’23 illustrates. 

   “Band in many ways is therapeutic, as not only do I get to be with the people I love doing what I love, but I also get to try to evoke emotion in others through my music, which in turn evokes emotion in myself,” describes Swartwout ’21. “Band is a class and a hobby, but it’s also a place to feel safe at.”

   “We’re all family and we take care of eachother. Covid has just made it a lot harder to do that,” Goemans ’21 clarifies. “There’s a connection there between us all that you just don’t through a computer screen.”

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