If you find yourself walking by the music building at Shawnigan, you just might hear the sound of instrumental music drifting through an open window. From the outside, this sound is at once familiar and “normal,” bringing the listener back to pre-pandemic times. If you entered the building, however, you would see just how much has changed.
The global pandemic has dramatically altered music programs across the world, with rigorous protocols implemented and new equipment designed to enable programs to operate. Music Teacher Kathryn Als has worked hard to ensure that Shawnigan’s music building can be safely put to use this year, while our musicians have quickly adapted to yet another change.
“It was hard at the beginning,” admits Ms Als. “And they thought the mouth piece masks were really funny at first. But it’s all very normal for them now. They’re just rolling with it.”
Musicians now have to contend with full instrument covers for wind instruments and special horn covers for brass instruments. Custom mouth piece masks must be worn when playing wind and brass instruments. Students are spread out throughout the room in carefully marked off areas, breaking up regular instrumental groupings and changing the sound of the band.
Routines have changed too. Music stands, coat hooks, and newly-installed storage cubbies are now sanitized at the end of each practice. A different cleaning solution must be used for instruments. Spit valves must be cleaned outside, rain or shine.
Yet through all of these adjustments and inconveniences, Shawnigan’s musicians have consistently shown patience, good humour and adaptability. More than anything, they are simply grateful to have the opportunity to make music. For a time, as they waited for their special equipment to arrive, classes couldn’t actually use their instruments – a difficult time for both students and teacher.
“It was heartbreaking not being able to hear music the first few weeks,” shares Ms Als. “The first day the covers came in, they were all just warming up individually, and it brought tears to my eyes. We finally had music back in the music building!”
Shawnigan Lake School is adhering to all COVID-19 guidelines released by the BC Ministries of Health and Education, including those regarding learning cohorts, physical distancing and mask-wearing when appropriate.
Shawnigan Lake School is a co-educational boarding school on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The school is home to nationally-ranked academics, arts and athletics, with 100 per cent of graduates accepted to university.