Posted by: Colin Britt | March 12, 2021

The pandemic, one year in

One year ago today was the last time I made music with other humans in the same room, unmasked, and the last time I felt any sense of normalcy. I started the day with a growing sense of uneasiness and apprehension – the night before had been the first time any of my close friends and colleagues really started to comprehend the gravity of the pandemic. (Tom Hanks had tested positive, for Pete’s sake!) And as that awful Thursday progressed, I saw every part of my professional life shut down – my church choir, my adult choir, and my school.

One year ago, I said a tearful goodbye to my students, giving them hugs and wishing them safety and health as the pandemic loomed. And as I walked out of my classroom, carrying my textbooks and binder (and a pilfered roll of toilet paper), I snapped this photo.

One year later, so much has changed. We have adapted to the challenges of teaching in a pandemic, using Zoom, Kahoots, and YouTube. We wear masks. The chairs are spaced 6 feet apart. Our students are divided into cohorts, and no ensemble has more than 40% of the singers in person. Our concerts have virtual, recorded with individual student videos edited together by experienced audio and video editors.

And yet there is hope. The vaccine is gaining steam and accessibility, and many of my colleagues, adult singers in my ensembles, and even students have received one or both doses. One year ago, we had no idea how much our lives would be changed by this, but I also couldn’t have known that just shy of 365 days later, I would receive my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

This week at my school, I had auditions for my select ensemble, and I realized that I would once again have a balanced group for next year. We scheduled dates for our ensembles to have in-person, prerecorded concerts (without in-person audiences). We announced our second-ever musical, a virtual revue themed around the idea of resilience. And as the weather thawed out from this year of winter, our campus began to feel a bit like what I remembered from The Before Times. There was an energy, a sense of optimism, a glimmer of what comes next.

The CDC recently announced that households that have been fully vaccinated can safely gather together without taking precautions like masking and social distancing. I believe that we will soon see guidelines indicating that, after being vaccinated, all of our choirs may again be allowed to sing together indoors. Maybe we’ll have to hold off on indoor audiences for a little while longer. But the idea of being together with my singers again, making music with those we love, is the brightest light I could have imagined at the end of the darkest tunnel I have been through.

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