Being a first-year graduate student is no easy task in a “normal” academic year, but being a new Choral Music DMA student has even more limitations. Andy Bruhn, composer, educator, and graduate assistant for UI Chamber Singers has expressed his reactions to beginning his degree in this fashion:
“The biggest limitation for me is to be so distant from one another both personally, and musically. Surely it is necessary, and I’m grateful for it, but it’s still sad feeling less connected to my classmates than I normally would. Zoom is great, but the absence of human connection is palpable. As a conductor (any person actually!), we use (and read!) body language constantly, which has certainly been different being covered by a mask! I can’t wait for the distance to disappear--to truly make music together again. I can’t imagine how good it will feel to remove the mask and harmonize with others in community. To see, hear, and experience each other in truth will be a beautiful thing. I’m also excited to shake hands, give a high five, or a hug to my dear friends and colleagues—some of whom I’ve literally never shaken their hand!”
Before coming to the Champaign-Urbana area, Andy was the Director of Choral Activities at Rockford Christian School in Rockford, IL. In addition to his work as a music educator, Andy composes and arranges choral works with Alfred Music Publishing, and also has the important role of husband and father to his two children, ages 6 and 4.
I never would have thought about those small things, such as giving friends a high five, or shaking hands, but I do miss singing without masks. That’s one of the most wonderful things about being a singer, telling stories through the music, but also with your FACE! There are times when I feel like my eyebrows may climb right off my face because I know that the lower half of it is not able to help me with expression. I’m sure some of you can relate.
Sure we can’t see each other’s faces, we can’t hug each other, and we can barely stand close enough to hear, but ya know what - we’re making music. Andy and I agree that we are very lucky to be able to make music together, as it is not a possibility at all institutions.
“I’m grateful that we are able to make music safely together. Personally, I felt an overwhelming sense of beauty in late January at our first rehearsal back from break. We were in the Choral Rehearsal Room, and I felt a sense of gratitude to be able to make music at a high level with others, bringing beauty into this world that needs it. Virtual Choirs are great, but the ability to make music in-person during this time is really something special.”
I know I’m not alone in saying that I cannot wait to be able to sing with Andy, and the rest of the Chamber Singers, where we can sing face-to-face and stand less than 6 feet away from each other, but for now. . . we are all just happy to be singing in the same space again.
Miranda (M.R.) Rowland
2nd year PhD student, music education
Note: The images used for this post were provided by Scott W. Schwartz,
Archivist for Music and Fine Arts and Director Sousa Archives and Center for American Music. Scott has been working to document how ensembles have continued to make music during the pandemic. With a specific focus on bands, Scott has also captured artifacts from Jim Pugh’s jazz ensemble, Andrea Solya’s choir, and Andrew Megill’s choir. Scott has collected nearly 2,000 photographs as well as reflections from students and faculty members about their time as musicians during the pandemic. Scott edited these two photos, making them one image to appear as if we are actually singing face-to-face, in close proximity. Full permission was granted to use his photos and each person in the photo was asked permission before submission.