The University of Illinois has responded to the pandemic in the most responsible way possible while still allowing students to have in-person opportunities. Many schools in America have mandated a simple facemask policy, others, have gone as far as converting to online learning for the full academic year. Our institution, however, goes above and beyond.
At the University of Illinois, all students are required to follow a testing schedule. Specifically, all undergraduates are required to test twice a week, and even once every other day if an outbreak occurs in one’s residence hall. To enter university buildings, you must have a negative test within four days, presented with the intuitive app, Safer Illinois. To attend lessons, rehearsals, or classes, I always have to make sure to stay on top of my testing schedule. But, it’s not as hard as it sounds since there are a plethora of testing facilities on campus. Even more exciting, we use a spit cup test invented right here (instead of those uncomfy swabs)!
Amidst the pandemic, I have the awesome opportunity to play in the orchestra, rehearse, and have coachings for the string quartet. I still take lessons and participate in studio classes, all of which meet in person! This can only be possible because of our university’s safety protocols.
Safety measure one - as uttered a few sentences ago, you’ll need to have a negative covid test every four days. Measure two - masks on at all times. Measure three - bring your own music stand, and no stand partners. Step four - all ensemble rehearsals have mandated breaks for cleaning and airing out the rehearsal space. When you put all those together, you get a safe and fulfilling orchestral experience!
The protocols have their pros and cons. The masks, after long periods of time, get hot and sweaty, which is horrendous for people with acne problems. Also, I find that when I wear glasses, they get fogged up frequently. Also, not having a stand partner poses a bit of an issue for the string players. Typically, stand partners are important as it’s their job to flip the page of music (if they are on the inside), which allows the string part to be continuously played with no breaks in sound. Without that failsafe, we have had to coordinate who turns pages when, but it still sounds a bit off at times. Finally, the orchestra itself is a lot smaller. The pros greatly outweigh all of this though. It’s a blessing to be able to play in an orchestra right now, and the protocols set in place make it a fully functional and completely safe environment for music-making. Furthermore, with the shorter rehearsal times and ample breaks, I have more time to watch Illini Basketball. With the vaccine rolling out, there is hope for the future that orchestra returning to normal.