Due to the skyrocketing COVID-19 rate in Monroe County at the beginning of 2022, the Eastman School of Music has canceled all in-person performances until February. All Eastman classes and private lessons, similarly, have been shifted online. This decision was made and informed to all Eastman students through email on Jan. 7, three days before the spring semester began. 

Nearly 20 planned performances in January have been either canceled or postponed, according to the Eastman School of Music calendar. The decision was especially difficult for students facing degree recitals, as their performances were either canceled or rescheduled. 

Despite the news being a disappointment to many, some Eastman students actively expressed their understanding towards the school’s decision. Jackie Wang, a second-year graduate student studying saxophone performance at Eastman, was in full support of the decision, despite its potential effects. “I think it’s necessary [to shift classes online] because music schools like Eastman should make sure of the safety of the students first. No safety, no music.”

Ariel Walton, a student studying Double Bass Performance in the class of 2022, expressed similar feelings about the school policy: “I would rather keep my peers safe, keep my professor safe, if that’s what we have to do.” 

However, Walton also noted that despite the previous online-learning experience in the spring of 2020, the return to the virtual practice remains to be a challenge for many music students. It often hinders the efficiency of physical instructions, which would be given in a classroom environment. “For our preferences, being in-person is important, especially in things like what you are learning is how to train your ears and oral skills. A lot of times, it’s this teacher-student feedback,” said Walton. “Let’s say that my instrument is not working properly. I can go to my teacher and be like ‘Hey, can you please try out my bow, and play it, and make sure that it’s correct.’ But if you are online, you can’t do that.”

For Ella Torres, a senior studying Voice at the Eastman School of Music, the challenge lies in the poor audio quality. This has caused great inconvenience for Torres in the aspect of group practice. “The biggest thing I’m hearing right now, is that I am preparing my recital […] with collaborators. There’s an option to rehearse with them right now. But [for] my collaborators, their comfort levels are just to wait when we are back in person,” said Torres. “It’s such a joy to play music with other people in terms of performance experience in general.” 

Just like the imposing pressure on many people since the beginning of the pandemic, the online practice has created additional concerns and anxiety for music students, who are restricted from the social and academic event that is music-making in the Eastman environment. While these restrictions have the possibility to affect morale for the current semester and for students’ upcoming careers, these changes are a test of their resilience and adaptability as musicians. “I think we are missing an integral piece of that music puzzle. However, there’s only so much you can do,” Walton said. “Ultimately, I’m really disappointed that I’m not making music […] It leaves me feeling a little concerned or worried for my upcoming career.” 

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