The events over the past year can definitely be characterized as harsh and unfavorable. Since that ball dropped at 12:00 am on January 1st of 2020, it has been one bad thing after the next. But, hopefully, people have all found outlets to relieve the inevitable stress that 2020 left in its wake. For some, that may be looking towards music. Thankfully, due to the amazing capabilities of the staff at Centereach High School, students looking for this outlet are able to attend after school clubs that can fulfill these wants and interests. Like the Chamber Orchestra, for example. As everyone can imagine, however, meetings this year are a lot different than the ones prior.
On a Wednesday in a semi-normal dimension, one could find the Chamber Orchestra practicing in the designated orchestra room, followed by a quick gathering of all the members in the music office. There, they would converse and eat the snacks their peers had brought for them. Due to the COVID pandemic, these students are left without these opportunities. Chamber Orchestra advisor, Mrs. Wesnofske, adds, “In previous years, there would be chatting in between pieces, exchanges of funny stories of past music related events, and in general, it was a much more social atmosphere. If I asked a question, multiple students would try to respond all at once. This year, I ask a question and there is silence.”
One member says, “Like usual, we have to wear masks, so it’s easier to nod or lightly chuckle at what Wes says.”
Another notable change is where practices occur. Social distancing regulations now place the group in the band room, its wide space necessary for participants to sit six feet apart. Mrs. Wesnofske explains that even seating arrangements had to be altered in order to protect the comfortability of students playing bigger instruments, like the bass or cello, all of which is influenced by the stair dynamic of the room.
This all may make Chamber sound a little less appealing, but it’s quite the contrary. Students are still able to learn new music pieces, both challenging and fun, and despite the circumstances, the comforting and fun-loving energy is still alive. They seem to have kept the defining features of CHS’ Chamber Orchestra. Like the inside jokes revolving around Mrs. Wesnofske’s box of pencils.
“Just don’t forget your writing utensil, and you’ll be fine,” says violin player Gabrielle Lloyd. “Honestly, even though things are different, everything is still so enjoyable. Like when Frank, the security guard who works the night shift, comes down to the band room to watch us play for a few minutes. He never leaves without egging Wes into some playful banter. It brings some sense of normalcy, really.” she adds.
So far, at least once during the practices, Wes never forgets to remind her students that they are essentially playing for all the kids down at the elementary and middle schools, showing them that even without the regularities of life, playing in orchestra, or in any other musical group, is something to continue or pursue.
Unfortunately, the students are not able to properly convey that idea since they are unable to perform in concerts. However, they have found a way to work around that drawback. Instead of preparing to play on stage, the members gear up for a video recording of their songs that are to be placed on the Middle Country Central School District website. They have already uploaded their rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer back during the holiday season, and they now prepare for another winter-y tune for the entire school district to enjoy.
Though very different to usual processes, the students in Chamber Orchestra seem to be grateful to have this opportunity in a world where the conventional ways of life are limited. Mrs. Wesnofske finally adds, “I think and hope that chamber students are happy that there is some normalcy due to rehearsals being in person. They have accepted that this is the way things are right now and that we’re [making] the best of it!”