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BU Wind Ensemble returns to the concert hall this Fall

A return to an almost normal Fall semester has ushered in the restoration of Boston University’s live music program. BU’s Wind Ensemble is one of the programs that has returned to the stage in front of a live audience.

The Boston University Wind Ensemble performing at Tsai Performance Center Tuesday night. The music group has eagerly returned to performing for live audiences this semester after enduring a year of pandemic-induced challenges. CLARE ONG/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Wind Ensemble is one of BU’s music major ensembles for students enrolled in the College of Fine Arts School of Music and includes wind, brass and percussion players. The director of the wind ensemble and a master lecturer of music, David Martins, conducts and prepares the ensemble members for performances throughout the semester.

Wind ensemble’s final concert of the semester took place this Tuesday at 8 p.m..

“That’s what we do, you know, performance is in our blood, and so to be able to do that again, it brought back a sense of normalcy that we’ve all been missing,” Martins said before the performance.

To continue playing in person last year, the wind ensemble tackled many different obstacles. Last Fall, students had to be 10 feet apart, masked when not playing and Martins had to stand at the back of the hall, he said.

“It made it difficult,” Martins said about the adjustments, “but it still provided students to have in-person instruction.”

Billy Sheahan, a senior tenor trombonist in the music performance program at the College of Fine Arts, said that for the last two semesters, there was a limited amount of in-person rehearsals. When they practiced in person, they were at least 12 feet apart.

“Sometimes that meant the ensemble actually going out into the concert hall like into the seats and really just trying to put as much distance between everyone as possible,” Sheahan said. “Just from a sonic standpoint, that is very difficult.”

After cases spiked in January, the wind ensemble had to cease in-person rehearsals. The Wind Ensemble switched to remote rehearsals which included recording excerpts and making “lemonade out of lemons,” Martins said.

“Last Spring I had to develop a whole different curriculum to try to provide instruction,” Martins said. “We were all in it together and we were trying to make good educational decisions.”

Now that BU has returned to a relatively normal campus and academic experience, wind ensemble has been able to scrap most of their LfA adjustments, but masks are still required for non-wind players or when wind instrumentalists are not playing. On Oct. 5, the wind ensemble had their first in-person concert since March 2020, which also allowed audience members to attend.

“There’s just a lot of habits that we all needed to get back into that are intrinsic to playing an instrument until you do it completely alone for a year and a half,” Sheahan said. “But once we got past that feeling of ‘Oh my god, there are other people making noise at the same time,’ it was really pretty amazing.”

Despite being glad that they have returned to in-person rehearsals and performances, Sheahan said they feel that their time at BU and in the Wind Ensemble has been cut short.

“I feel like I’m almost making up for lost time because music is something that is very difficult, of course, to try to do over the internet and no matter how close you get, there’s still something to be desired when you compare it to sitting in a room performing with people,” Sheahan said.

First-year student Andrew Battaglia said the remaining restrictions like mask-wearing are still not ideal.

“We still have to wear masks, which I get, but it’s still annoying because we have to pull them down, up and down before we play,” Battaglia said. “We have to account for extra time to remove masks before we enter to play, and then we also have air filters around and sometimes they’re pretty loud.”

Despite some continued restrictions, Battaglia said this year is more manageable than what he heard about the wind ensemble’s protocols last year and the restrictions he had in high school.

“I think everyone’s done what they can and it’s a better experience than what people have had last year and what I’ve had in high school,” he said.

Sheahan said rehearsals tend to “feel like a drag” in an average year toward the end of the semester when the workload for classes gets more challenging, but that hasn’t been the case this semester.

“But this past September, I’m just like running to all my rehearsals,” they said. “It’s very refreshing, I think, is probably the best word.”

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