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Returning to Live Recitals Brings Enthusiasm and Caution for the Music Program

(Photo courtesy of Tory Germann) The UMass Lowell music program has returned to live recitals after being remote for three semesters.

Michael Van Arnam
Connector Staff

The UMass Lowell music program has returned to live recitals after being remote for the past three semesters. The new COVID-19 restrictions have created some difficulties for carrying out in-person performances this semester, but students still strongly prefer the new situation to Zoom recitals.

Last year, students in the music program were forced to perform their recitals over Zoom  or to prerecord their performances and send them to their professors via email. Now, students are performing live and in-person. But there are still restrictions, such as social distancing, wearing face coverings while playing and putting bell covers over instruments.

Students said they found that the remote performances last year did not engage them in the same way as live performances do.

“There were definitely a few occasions where I would open up my laptop and turn my webcam off and just make dinner or something [during performances],” said Sam Paek, a sophomore sound recording technology major. “Not that I didn’t want to support other students, it was just not very engaging. Being back in person definitely makes it easier to find interest and perform for sure.”

While students are grateful to be in front of live audiences again, adhering to the protocols has created some difficulties for students during their performances. Alex Cook, a senior vocalist also studying sound recording technology, said he feels face coverings impair his singing capability. “There’s a huge acoustic problem of having a little soft, fuzzy thing right in front of a mouth,” he said. “I mean, so much of the sound of a singer’s voice comes from the mouth and from the nose.”

Caleb Rawlinson, a baritone saxophone player and Junior majoring in music studies, also struggles playing his instrument while wearing a mask. “Wearing an instrument mask while playing can be sort of tough, and just setting up a situation in which everybody can play safely,” he said.

Despite these irritations, students feel the restrictions are necessary. Rawlinson says the restrictions help prevent the spread of COVID-19. “The last thing I want is for school to go back online,” he said.

Cook said the restrictions are particularly beneficial to singers. “I don’t think it would be safe for us to do what we’re doing without restrictions right now. Especially singers,” he said. “If any of one of us gets an upper respiratory disease and we’re singing in a closed room, even with good airflow, we’re going to get each other sick.”

Cook says he has not seen the crowd capacity make a full return for his shows, but he says he has heard great interest in returning to these events. As for Rawlinson, crowds have made a full reinstatement.

“With the blues ensemble, there has not been [difficulty attracting crowds]. The venue is usually been pretty filled out.”

The importance of performing live again after such a long hiatus is what music students are trying to focus on.

Paek is glad for the return to in person performances and recitals, “It took a little bit of getting used to again, but overall, it felt good.… I like being able to play with other musicians in person. It almost feels like it reminds me like why I’m here sometimes, because it’s just the feeling that you can’t get on Zoom.”

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