By Erin Brody
As winter break wrapped up, many students, faculty and staff wondered whether Saint Vincent College would return for the start of the spring 2022 semester with Omicron cases on the rise. While the school ultimately chose to return to in-person learning, some programs had to adapt their focuses until COVID cases plateau and decrease.
Dr. Thomas Octave, chair of fine arts, explained the shifts in the music program and why these shifts had to be accommodated, as music-related events were deemed a COVID super-spreader. However, the music department has “tried to keep things as normal as possible.”
As Octave recounted, performances were held in person with masked audiences in the fall of 2021. Performers were even able to have actors perform without masks if they tested negative within a reasonable time before the show. According to Octave, “the fall was a little bit better” due to a lower rate of community transmission of COVID compared to the start of this semester.
“Now with this current Omicron surge, we’ve just tried to mitigate more,” Octave said. “We’re trying to keep these two weeks a little more virtual, having ensembles meeting, just keep doing what we’re doing with keeping some distance [and] masking.”
Both bands and choir wear masks during rehearsals, and choir lessons have implemented a virtual format because the act of singing creates “more aerosols” than speech production. The music program has also continued to reference multiple agencies like the CDC and American Choral Directors Association to ensure the best plan of action for the SVC community.
“We are sticking to the health and safety plan of the college, really,” said Octave. “The industry standard is the mask.”
Octave hopes to be back in full swing “in the next week or two,” but until then, the music program will continue to operate with the current system in place.
“We’ll pivot and turn as we need to,” Octave said. “But I’m an eternal optimist, so I’m always looking for the positive dimensions of it all.”
Octave is “grateful to our students and faculty for working together so well” in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, which is why the music program is able to continue with their concert series. Music at Midday, one such series, will continue in February both live and virtually.