Throughout the pandemic, many businesses and jobs have been hit hard, causing some to get shut down and for other communities, rules and regulations were forced to be changed at a rapid pace. The performing arts community faced some of the biggest changes, with music tours being postponed or canceled and large businesses like Broadway getting shut down.
However, it’s not just the people in the big leagues that are facing difficulties. Local theater companies and music groups have had to make major changes in how they approach practicing and performing, from coordinating in-person and online students in band to live streaming theater productions.
While each group has had its own way of continuing through the COVID pandemic, the orchestra group has been working hard to make sure they follow all the instructed guidelines.
Orchestra director Joseph Gutowski said, “I believe [the pandemic has had a major effect on the music industry]. Some students chose to not continue in the program due to COVID-19 and I would be surprised if some of them choose to return to the program when we are back to normal. As it is much harder to assess the students who are virtual as well as the myriad of technical issues, there is no way we are at the same place performance-wise as we would have been when everyone would be in-person.”
Another thing that has proven to be a challenge in most music classes is attempting to combine virtual and in-person learners.
“Most days, the virtual learners are playing at home along with the in-person learners. We have a good quality microphone and have attempted to get a webcam set-up to best see me and have me to lead them, but some students have bandwidth issues or sound issues, so we cannot always play together that way. Unfortunately, the technology does not exist to allow us to play at the same time so I can hear the virtual learners. Most days, they are playing with their Zoom call on mute, unless I am specifically working with those students,” Gutowski said.
Every year, Lafayette Theatre Company (LTC) produces a fall play and a spring musical. In the fall, they put together a show full of the best scenes and songs from shows from the past 10 years of productions. The scenes were performed and recorded, then edited together and uploaded onto their YouTube channel.
The Spring Musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, has been pushed back to mid-April with auditions set to begin on Jan. 19.
According to Megan Dill, who is the long-term substitute for theater teacher Natasha Fischer, performing Spelling Bee is the best choice for the musical during COVID.
“If we have to perform in the gym or if we have to perform in a different setting than just in our theater, it’s easy to socially distance the kids on stage. It was just the perfect time to do it,” Dill said.
However, it’s not just the performance location that has changed, the audition process has changed too.
“We have to maintain small groups to be able to be socially distant. So there will be small groups with 10-15 minute audition time frames that will have 10 or less kids signed up to audition in that time frame then they will all have to leave and then our next batch can come in,” Dill said.
Despite the circumstances, both groups are optimistic about what the future holds for them in terms of their upcoming productions.