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Banding together through a pandemic

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The novel coronavirus has changed Seton School in Manassas quite a bit, and one class impacted significantly is band. Last year, with the state-required lockdowns, band Director Jennifer Erwin searched for a way to proceed with the spring concert the students had worked hard to prepare for. She came up with a plan for a virtual concert.

From home, the students individually recorded their performances of their concert selections and sent them to Erwin. She used a program called Audacity to line up all their tracks, which took hours of work, and uploaded the compiled music along with a slideshow of the band students for the Seton community to enjoy on YouTube.

This school year, although Seton has been blessed to be back in person full time, restrictions on woodwind and brass instruments mean the band has been using all percussion instruments this year, which produce a variety of different sounds.

“Playing percussion involves learning to play an endless number of instruments: from drums of all sizes, to tambourines, triangles, sleigh bells, woodblocks, etc., to xylophones, glockenspiels, marimbas and other keyboard percussion instruments,”  said Erwin.

The students performed and livestreamed their traditional Christmas concert, with the percussion-only ensemble.

“Due to coronavirus restrictions, we have gotten ourselves into some unique situations,” said Erwin during the concert. “We’ve called around to local auto repair shops to ask if they had any used brake drums we could have,” she said, pointing at the festively painted brake drums on stage for the concert.

Along with alterations in playing instruments, the location of band class has changed as well. Due to larger classes needing the extra space in Seton’s all-purpose room/cafeteria, band now takes place in St. Benedict, formerly known as “the weight room.”

“This has been a great location for band, as the classroom has a door that opens up to Seton’s backyard,” said Erwin. “We often take our instruments outside for rehearsal on nice days.”

The band members have been planning for their trip to Disneyworld scheduled for this June. The band has been raising funds for this trip since the summer of 2019. After the trip was postponed from the summer of 2020 to Christmas of 2020, and now to the summer of 2021, the students are determined to make it happen. Erwin has been in contact with travel agents who work with young musicians going on performance tours and the agents are working to make this trip possible.

The student body and faculty are thrilled to see that the band has continued to play on through a pandemic.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021