6 Beats Apart

by Talia Argov, Features Contributor; June Kim, Features Contributor; Eva Shimkus, Features Editor & Neena Tarafdar, Features Contributor
photo by Eva Shimkus

For junior Cheri Lookner, in-person chorus rehearsals have returned a sense of normalcy to an otherwise tedious day. 

“I love starting my day off in a way I’ve been used to for so long. I feel really comfortable,” she said. “It makes me forget about the pandemic for a while.”

Lookner has had the opportunity to attend in-person music classes at South. Every Thursday, chorus and orchestra director Benjamin Youngman instructs Lookner and the rest of the Madrigals chorus under a tent outside of the 6000s. Youngman, along with instrumental music director Lisa Linde and music teacher Edward Harlow, successfully advocated for in-person music classes that began in October.

Senior David Kim, who plays in both the wind and jazz ensembles, said that rehearsals have always been a social activity and an important part of school for him.

“There’s so much you cannot do over Zoom that comes naturally when you’re inperson,” he said. “You need to be listening to other people. You need to be playing in time with them and matching how they’re playing.”

Linde, who spearheaded the initiative for her jazz and band classes, said that the idea for in-person music classes came in response to many parents’ and students’ desire for hybrid instruction.

“I thought everybody would want to be together and play,” she said. “It’s something we’ve done as musicians since we were in fourth grade, and that was totally taken away from us. In a remote world, we never get that back.”

Kim said in-person rehearsals are a helpful part of the curriculum for the band, allowing them to learn music without the latency of Zoom classes.

Linde said that once she and the rest of the music department wrote a proposal for in-person rehearsals, the process of getting it approved by school administrators only took four days. 

“I kept pressing that this is a time issue, and by the end of October we start to lose our window,” she said. “I just had to be pushing, advocating for myself and my students.”

After receiving initial administrative approval, the path to in-person practice was far from over and included getting approval from the Newton Department of Health and Human Services, which had its own set of guidelines, Youngman said.

“[In chorus], you need masks and the spread is pretty dramatic in terms of aerosols. You also have to keep far more distance than the normal 6 feet so we almost had to triple the distance,” he said. 

Senior Matthew Honig said that he appreciates the in-person playing opportunities.

“I’m part of an orchestra again and actually making music as a group, which is a huge difference from what we were doing,” he said. “In orchestra, it’s about being more than someone’s part and working together.”

Linde said that a challenge with in-person rehearsals has been student transportation to school. 

“As I look at the people who are having a hard time getting in, it’s younger students who don’t have somebody at home who is either an older sibling or a parent that can drive them,” she said.

Lookner said she feels safe attending in-person rehearsals despite their limitations. 

“I feel super comfortable with the protocols we have in place to be 12 to 15 feet apart,” she said. “Everyone wears a tight-fitting, double-layer mask, and [Mr Youngman]’s talked to us about the ways that we need to keep each other safe.”

Harlow said that he and the rest of the music department will continue to find ways to offer opportunities for in-person classes.

“It’s a hassle for sure, for probably everybody involved to some degree,” he said. “While we deal with this difficult subject, we use that skill that is so important in music, which is creativity, [and] find safe ways to maximize our education for our students.”