Band, chorus find new mediums for displaying talent after cancellation of MPAs

This story was originally published in the fifth edition of The Lion’s Tale (March 26, 2021). 

Due to concerns associated with the coronavirus pandemic, the band and chorus did not attend their typical music performance assessments, or MPAs, this year. Instead, the students in those groups have had to find new ways to show off their talents to judges and the public.

The chorus usually performs a show in the spring featuring popular music and dancing, which isn’t possible this year because of the risk of virus transmission that comes with groups singing indoors. Instead, they plan on assembling a collection of solos.

“We’ve auditioned 36 people to sing solos of 70’s music and selected 18 of them,” said chorus teacher Bill Schult. “We are recording those in the auditorium, and we are going to put them together on a DVD and probably post it on a YouTube link and that kind of thing as well. So it’s going to be like a 70’s show but with soloists.”

Chorus members believe adequate health precautions have been taken as they prepare the show.

“We don’t sing, but if we do solos everything is socially distanced,” said freshman Cameryn Harber. “Someone goes to the front of the classroom, takes their mask off, [and] sings. Everyone else sits in the back six feet apart; everyone keeps their masks on. Schult is very good about [keeping the mask] over the nose and mouth; he is just very responsible with that, and it’s a secure environment for sure.”

Schult affirmed his commitment to the safety of his students.

“I don’t want to put any of my kids in a position where they can get sick or potentially take that home to somebody else that can be potentially fatal; that would be awful,” Schult said. “We want to be in chorus because we are able to be a part of a team that produces beautiful music and works together and gets to know each other.”

The students’ reactions to missing out on a traditional MPA largely depend on grade level.

“MPA is a fun activity, but since I am a sophomore, I am not really missing out on much since only the people in [the] Verizon’s [choral group] get to go to MPA,” said sophomore Kyle Broennle.

Some of the older members were saddened at the loss of some of the opportunities they would otherwise have had.

“I’m disappointed that this year there’s been no chance for MPA, or any concerts for that matter, but I understand why we couldn’t hold any,” said senior Izabella Ryan. “It’s worse since I’m a senior, so
this would have been my last year to participate in anything.”

While the chorus is recording their performance pieces, the band hired three Florida Bandmasters Association judges to come and evaluate the symphonic band and wind ensemble.

“This year, rather than submit a recording of our ensembles, we are bringing the three judges to OHS to simulate what an in-person MPA experience would be like,” said assistant band director Alexander Busby. “We prepare the same way we would in a normal year.”

Symphonic band received one excellent and two superiors for an overall superior rating. The wind ensemble received straight superiors.

According to students, the close connections of band members are a cause for concern when one player contracts the virus or gets quarantined.

“It’s scary practicing when someone gets quarantined, because for the most part it feels like if one person in your section gets it, you all will, especially since most kids in band are friends outside of school and hang out together, the risks are a lot higher,” said junior Ruby Bean.

On the other hand, the band’s music this year has allowed for some flexibility.

“The pieces we’re playing this year make it easy to cover up if someone’s quarantined during the performance, so that’s relieving, but we also have the Connect kids listen in during class, and they do our recorded homework, so the Connect kids do get to participate,” Ruby said.

The group’s leaders feel grateful for any chance to demonstrate their hard work.

“As much as it hurts that the students will not be given a rating, I am just thankful that we even get a chance to play,” said head band director Zachary Chowning.