The show must go on: UK students make music from home

UK sophomore music major Katherine Goble poses for a portrait on her front porch on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Lauren Campbell

Music students once filled the stages of the now-closed Singletary Center for the Arts. Now, they play at home in their bedrooms, preparing for the day when crowds can again gather.

Due to COVID-19, the UK School of Music was forced to quickly change the course of its semester and choose to cancel or reschedule its countless events.

Aubree Turner, a junior arts administration major and vocal performance minor, was set to perform in one of the many canceled performances.

“I was supposed to perform in the UK Choristers Spring Concert and in the combined choirs and orchestra Beethoven’s Ninth Concert,” Turner said. “While I am obviously not able to meet and perform with my classmates, my director and professor, Beth Wilson, has done an excellent job of making sure we are being enriched despite the canceled concerts.”

Turner said that Wilson invited a revered choral group, Cantus, to speak with her class over Zoom.

“They shared so much valuable information with us, and I am very thankful that my musical soul is still being poured into during this time,” said Turner.

Sophomore music major Katherine Goble said her professors have also come up with new activities.

“We are doing other fun things, such as having the head players of professional orchestras have Zoom Q&As with us as well as doing fun assignments, such as for choir, finding what makes the difference between good and incredible choirs,” Goble said. “And in orchestra, watching performances of the Berlin Philharmonic and writing about it, or sending tapes and a resume as if we were auditioning somewhere, and critiquing them so we can improve them.”

UK, like universities across the country, canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester. The adjustment to online instruction has been challenging for many, but for classes in the arts, the change has limited practical application of skills.

“Where we have gotten into difficulty are classes that are nearly impossible to teach remotely,” said Robert Jenson, a professor of art history. “Imagine taking a ceramics course in which there are no clay, no kilns, no wheels, and so on. What exactly can you do in such a class? Our ceramics faculty have been able this semester to give students drawing and planning projects for things that they cannot actually make. If they take advanced ceramics later on, they can put those ideas into physical form.”

Goble is a violinist in the UK Orchestra and a member of the Women’s Choir. Besides the move to online classes, she has to adjust to life with no concerts and playing music alone.

“I always get emotional playing music because however the audience feels, it’s twice that for the musicians,” Goble said. “In a big orchestra, it’s almost like being at a rock concert with sounds coming from all sides of you while you are playing your heart out.”

And while the orchestra’s last rehearsal occurred before it was decided the campus was closing down, Goble and many of her fellow musicians had a feeling it would happen.

“At our last rehearsal, the conductor was talking about what a privilege it has been to make beautiful music with us and how he hopes that we can come together and make music again soon,” Goble said. “We were playing Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2. That piece is just incredibly beautiful and sentimental, especially at the beginning. It was extremely emotional knowing we probably wouldn’t be able to play with one another for a while.”

But because students in the UK Orchestra and University Choirs are enrolled and graded for their work and participation, they have not stopped making music.

For their more traditional courses, many of which also require performances, music students are using video-conferencing and video submissions to have their work critiqued.

“Many of my classes are having extra office hours just to check on us and our mental health,” Goble said. “We’re taking videos and sending them to our teachers so our violin professors can still hear us play with good sound quality.”

Goble said her professors are doing a great job using online resources.

“Except for missing the laughter and comradery in the halls of Fine Arts, I feel like I am getting the same education,” said Goble.

Education continues, and not just for current UK music students. College of Fine Arts Recruitment Officer Nathan Williams said not a whole lot has changed for recruiting incoming students.

“Luckily all of our School of Music auditions took place prior to the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Williams. “However, if students are interested in being a part of the ensembles, our voice and instrumental studio professors are very flexible and offer online auditions for the fall.”

Williams said that they have lost the chance for students to complete on-campus visits and shadowing opportunities.

“With that said, many of my student ambassadors are speaking to prospective students via Zoom, which has been a great tool for the College of Fine Arts Student Affairs team,” said Williams.