Campus, Coronavirus, News

Orchestras, bands, ensembles cancel semester’s last performances, rehearsals due to COVID-19 surge

BU Orchestra concerts canceled, COVID-19
Livestream performance by Boston University’s Baroque Orchestra in April of 2021. Multiple Boston University School of Music ensembles, orchestras and bands had their remaining concerts canceled due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. HANNAH YOSHINAGA/DFP FILE

Multiple ensembles, orchestras and bands in the Boston University School of Music had the remainder of the semester’s rehearsals and concerts canceled due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Mary Gerbi, manager of the School of Music Ensembles, informed students in Orchestra and Wind Ensemble of the cancellation last week, according to an April 26 email obtained by The Daily Free Press.

“The Boston University Wind Ensemble was supposed to have a rehearsal that afternoon,” Gerbi later said in an interview. “The cancellation for the same day in their case, and then the orchestra, their next rehearsal would’ve been the next day.”

Gerbi cited a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the School of Music combined with the fact that many performers — notably wind instrumentalists — become “close contacts” during rehearsals as some of the main reasons to cancel ensemble activities and rehearsals.

“These close contact situations have repeatedly disrupted solo and chamber recital performances that some students need to complete in order to graduate,” Gerbi wrote in the email. “Therefore, this decision is being made to help ensure the successful completion of as many recitals as possible this semester.”

That same day, and for similar reasons, Music Ensembles Director Michael Barsano informed students in All-Campus Orchestra, Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble their large instrumental performances and rehearsals were canceled, according to an email obtained by The Daily Free Press. 

Since mid-March, the University has reported a pronounced, steady increase in COVID-19 cases — case counts are nearing the heights of the omicron surge early this year, according to available data

Judy Platt, the director of Student Health Services, suggested a revision regarding COVID-19 protocols in the School of Music, specific to woodwind and brass instrumentalists. The revisions were communicated via an April 26 email to students in some Athletic Bands — a general designation for five of the University’s bands.

“A student who has been a ‘close contact’ should remain masked for 5 days from the date of exposure,” the protocol stated. “This masking policy prohibits students in forced air disciplines (wind/brass) from participating in rehearsals/performances and lessons or using practice facilities.”

In that same email, Aaron Goldberg, director of Athletic Bands, wrote that Pep Band, Winter Drumline and Winter Guard all will continue with business as usual.

“Pep Band, our only spring ensemble with wind players, has only one performance remaining on Saturday 4/30 for everybody, and it’s outdoors,” Goldberg wrote. “Winter Drumline has no wind players, and students and staff will continue to remain masked indoors during rehearsal.”

Some students in the School of Music said they were “super bummed” over the cancellation.

“The thing that I do that really fulfills me that gives me motivation to do the harder stuff like schoolwork is Orchestra,” said Grace Helmke, a flutist in Orchestra and Wind Ensemble and junior in the School of Music. “To be left without that crutch, it’s been hard to find the motivation to still do schoolwork.”

Others like Spencer Klein, a french horn player and junior in the School of Music, called the cancellation “kind of a relief.”

“We had so much practicing to do, and it’s that point of semester where everything is kind of piling on,” he said. “And so to now have an additional 12 hours a week free is awesome.”

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