Cover Your Fangs in the St. Mary's Wind Ensemble

Exhibit created by Santos Mencio, Public History Graduate student at St. Mary's University (San Antonio, Texas)

Introduction

During COVID-19, the St Mary's Music Program had to make many adaptations to survive the sudden onslaught of lockdowns and other social distancing mandates. Band is an experience that requires a high degree of in-person interaction. Rehearsal conduct changed with the implementation of social distancing and lockdowns. Several drastic changes were enacted, such as virtual rehearsals or outdoor rehearsals. It was a shocking change for many band members, so there was an immense need for flexibility

Social Distancing and Going Online

When COVID-19 first began, the university enacted several policies that affected the Music Program, such as social distancing restrictions and mask requirements. These policies were initially focused on safety and crippled the ability of the Music Department to hold rehearsals and performances. Masks meant students were unable to meet indoors, while the social distancing requirements meant that students had to remain a certain distance when meeting. When the fall 2020 semester began, the university and the music department had to adapt to create a safe environment where students could create music, such as holding rehearsals online where masks and social distancing weren't issues.

St. Mary's Wind Ensemble and St Marys university policies at the start of COVID

In these emails between the University President and St Mary's Staff and between the Music Department Chair and Music Department Staff, several policies and methods were discussed and enacted to try and protect students during the initial months of COVID.

The St. Mary's Wind Ensemble returning for the Fall 2020 Semester

These emails detail policies the University and the Music Department enacted to protect students. Balancing both protection and ensuring the students could participate in the music program for the coming fall 2020 semester.

The St. Mary's Wind Ensemble and Online Rehearsal

These emails to band participants detail how they intended to conduct online rehearsals over zoom amid COVID-19 lockdowns.

In-Person Rehearsals and the Experiences of Students and Administrators

The St. Mary's Wind Ensemble and Instrument Coverings

This item is an email and order form detailing the purchase of instrument coverings for the band.

#Coveryourfangs Interview with Dr. Mireles

An interview with Dr. Matthew Mireles, the St. Mary's Music Department Chair, describing his experiences throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns and the re-opening of the university.

#Coveryourfangs Interview with Wind Ensemble Members

An interview with two members of the St. Mary's Wind Ensemble where we discuss their experiences during COVID-19 and the changes made to the Music Program.

St. Mary's Wind Ensemble & In-Person Rehearsals

These emails between the Music Department head and band members discussed how they intended to approach the possibility of holding in-person rehearsals.

The St. Mary's Wind Ensemble endured many challenges as the world began opening up and lockdowns ended. Rehearsals were outdoors because social distancing requirements prevented them from being held indoors. Here other challenges had to be addressed to protect students while still allowing them to perform music pieces. The outdoor rehearsals were completely unlike anything the band had done before. Moving from a professional indoor environment to an unpredictable loud outdoor environment was a difficult challenge to overcome.

An Instagram post from the official STMU Music Department Instagram page talking about the outdoor rehearsal held on March 17th, 2021
An Instagram post from the official STMU Music Department Instagram page talking about the outdoor rehearsal held on March 17th,2021

Performances and Returning to Normal

St. Marys Spring Wind Ensemble Concert Poster

A poster advertising the wind ensemble spring 2021 end of semester performance.

Spring 2021 St Marys Jazz Clinic

Emails about the St Mary's Spring Jazz Clinic and the precautions taken to protect participants.

St. Mary's Wind Ensemble Dia De Los Muertos Poster

A poster advertising the university's Dia De Los Muertos celebration that the St. Mary's Wind Ensemble would be performing at.

By the late Spring and early Fall of 2021, the world had opened up again, providing the band opportunities to begin holding in-person performances again for a live audience. So they held a live performance in the St. Mary's Alumni Pavilion, a sign that things were getting better and a more traditional band environment could be cultivated for the future, even if they needed to take measures to protect the audience. These posters and the emails demonstrate two focuses of the Music Department, protecting performers and upholding public performances. They acted as rallying events for the St. Mary's community as a whole, a marker that things had improved and the lockdowns from a year ago were a thing of the past.

An Instagram post from the STMU Music Department's official Instagram page announcing the outdoor performance held on April 9th, 2021.
An Instagram post from the STMU Music Department's official Instagram page announcing the outdoor performance held on April 9th, 2021.

Conclusion

The St. Mary's Wind Ensemble endured numerous challenges as the world shut down and then reopened, such as moving to virtual rehearsals or adapting to holding outdoor practices in an incredibly unpredictable environment. As of November of 2021, the band has overcome many of these obstacles and continued making great music. The items in this exhibit encapsulate the unique struggles the St. Mary's Wind Ensemble endured and the overwhelming effort expended to return the band to normal.

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