Pepperdine’s Music Building is one of the most obvious buildings located on the main campus. Due to COVID-19, students didn’t have full access to the building and practice rooms. Photo by Ryan Brinkman
The Music Building at Pepperdine has long served for music students to practice and learn skills that are pertinent to their success of becoming phenomenal musicians. Because of COVID-19, Music students didn’t have full access to on-campus resources last year. Students expressed their excitement about finally being able to have in-person classes this fall.
Senior Music major Michael Gullo, a performer of classic guitar, said taking private music lessons on Zoom with Professor Christopher Parkening and Professor Kevin Enstrom this past year was difficult and it took him quite some time to get used to.
“I’m very excited for this fall semester,” Gullo said. “I just had my first in-person class this past summer session so it made me look forward to the fall even more — and the interaction and hospitality of people in real life, especially from those I knew from the music program.”
Senior Music major Edward Li, a cello player, said the practice rooms had limited access even when students were on campus during the 2021 academic year.
“I don’t think there will be limited access this fall, which is good,” Li said. “The practice room plays an important role in the preparation of concerts and musical studies.”
Practice room policies for the fall semester, however, have yet to be finalized due to a surge of Delta Variant cases in Los Angeles.
“The plan, as of now, is that we will not have to monitor/assign student use of studios or practice rooms once the fall semester begins, so that is one aspect of normal life, at least, that will return,” said Bradley Griffin, professor of Theatre and divisional dean of the Fine Arts Division.
Pepperdine Music majors expressed their eagerness to know more about what the in-person policies would be. Gullo said what he learned about the practice policies so far is that they should be on a first-come, first-served basis. It may change depending on what Los Angeles County says about their COVID-19 precautions in the near future.
With the guidelines from LA County and the University administration, it is hard for the music department to make plans regarding rehearsals and concerts at the moment, said Pierre Tang, director of Instrumental Ensemble and assistant professor of Music.
There is a mask mandate in place for all indoor activities, except when the room is occupied by one single person only, which means students cannot play woodwind and brass instruments indoors as part of an ensemble, Tang said.
The Fine Arts faculty members had weekly meetings to make a case for an outdoor rehearsal space for ensembles’ rehearsals, sectionals, lessons and studio classes, etc.
In regard to outdoor concerts, “we can have Music at 3, ensemble concerts, Founders Day performances, etc,” Tang wrote.
The Pepperdine Music Department and music students are navigating how to transition from remote instruction to in-person. For Music majors, these classes are essential because they are the foundation of studies and preparation for grad school, auditions, jobs and so much more.
Brittany Weinstock, a junior Vocal Music major, said the faculty recommended some effective singing masks to use that don’t affect resonance and make it easier to sing than a normal mask.
“I’d say for any art that really requires the use of the face/mouth — sing, wind/brass instruments, acting — the newly re-implemented mask mandate is difficult and sometimes frustrating,” Weinstock said. “For any performance art, expression is key. It helps convey the emotions of the piece to the audience and allows us to really invest ourselves into what we are doing and showing that externally.”
The Music Department is grateful for students’ flexibility and patience as they come up with a plan for a year ahead that is both full of uncertainty and hope, Tang said. The faculty will continue to communicate with the University administrators to learn about the latest COVID-19 protocols and announce the plan for the 2021-2022 music seasons accordingly.
“Last year was definitely more difficult than this, since we weren’t in person at all and had to do everything virtually, so I am grateful at least we are back in person,” Weinstock said. “I can only hope accommodations will be made and we will find a way forward through this pandemic to continue making the art we love and sharing it with the community around us.”
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