More Changes for Musicians


Some musicians must remove their masks to play their instruments. (Source: Andrew Lay (III))

As we pass the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, life at Boston Latin School is starting to return to normal. At the beginning of this school year, students returned to in-person academic classes and music programs. With the number of COVID-19 cases still rising, however, BLS is taking precautions to ensure safety among students and staff participating in music programs.

While mask and vaccine mandates are gradually being relaxed, BLS continues to take safety precautions seriously. The school frequently adjusts its protocols in response to the pandemic. At the beginning of the school year, for example, when case numbers were in decline, it established guidelines such as bell covers on instruments and three-foot social distancing to ensure that band and chorus classes were as safe as possible. After the winter break, however, music programs, with the exception of orchestra, took a complete hiatus in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

Upon the recent return of regular programming, the school has instituted a new round of precautions to reduce the potential for new positive cases among musicians. These precautions include double-masking, six-foot distancing and fewer students allowed in practicing spaces.

Students reacted differently in response to the most recent measures, with some in favor and others against them. Like most of their peers, BLS musicians have grown weary of wearing masks, social distancing and regular testing, wishing to return to “normal.”

While all are eager to get back to playing, not everyone is in support of the new rules. Brendan Nolan (IV) shares his frustrations on the new precautions, saying, “I don’t think [in-person band and chorus programs] should’ve been taken away at all, nor do I think that there should be any more protocols; we should just be able to play.”

Since school-wide COVID-19 precautions have complicated the last few years, students are thankful to be back in the building with the opportunity to do what they love. Many students appreciate the opportunity to play in-person again regardless of the additional protocols that may be required.

Returning to an in-person schedule, however, posed new challenges for musicians who were accustomed to their previous virtual routines. Mark Snekvik (IV) explains, “It’s clear we aren’t in the same spot as pre-COVID[-19] because people haven’t played their instruments as much and aren’t used to important elements of band such as dynamics, blending and accurate tempo that can be fixed by recordings.” 

Still, morale remains high among musicians. Reminiscing on last year’s situation, Snekvik says, “The advantages to in-person [classes] are innumerable: we can actually hear others and play in harmony, our teachers can give us feedback, and we don’t have to record. […] Masking is a trivial inconvenience compared to Zoom.”

COVID-19 has come with a myriad of challenges for everyone, but the return to somewhat normal activities has brightened many spirits, especially students participating in the band and chorus programs. 

Islay Shilland (IV) summarizes the feelings of many musicians in the current climate, explaining, “It is incredib[ly] difficult to play a cohesive piece when none of the players are in the same room and [with the] Wi-Fi […] going in and out. […] I love playing in-person again, and I hope we never have to return to a virtual model.”