January 15th, 2021

U of L Conservatory of Music taking cautious approach with lessons

By Woodard, Dale on September 9, 2020.

A piano sits inside a studio at Casa behind a notice on the door outlining the University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music’s lesson protocols. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

The University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music is tuning up for the fall season.

As the conservatory continues to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the songs will remain somewhat the same.

That means more of a shift to online as opposed to in-person lessons after a period of silence following the pandemic outbreak nearly six months ago.

“We haven’t done anything since March,” said Breanne Fuller, director of the conservatory. “But we’ve actually transitioned all of our winter programming to online pretty successfully. We haven’t had a huge lapse in anything, but as we head into the fall the plan for preparation up to this has been three months in the works. Sept. 14 will be when we go to limited in-person programming.”

If a student or teacher feels uncomfortable with in-person lessons, the option exists to move things online.

“That was the approach we took,” said Fuller. “It was very much in the hands of the students and the instructors to decide what works for them. But if it’s going to be successful in the winter online, and could continue feasibly like that, we’re saying that is the best option right now. That’s the most important thing, we’re affiliated with the university and the university is really striving to do everything or as much as they can online.”

Fuller said there will be no in-person lessons for woodwinds or brass instruments – due to expelling droplets – as well as voice lessons.

Right now, the conservatory is at capacity, said Fuller.

“So with the returning students we have and the ones we’re allowing to be in-person, we’ve decided that is how much we feel comfortable with right now.

“What we’ve said to them is if they want to sign up for online there is potential that space will open up in-person and we might allow a few more students in. We’re not at capacity for Alberta Health Regulations, we’re under-capacity, but we just want to make sure we’re comfortable. That’s the approach right now, we’re being very cautious.”

For in-person lessons, masks are mandatory at Casa along with other precautionary measures in place in the studios.

The choir will be 90 per cent online, but four singers – one for each harmony part – will be allowed in the biggest room to social distance and sing with the rest of the online choir.

“We’re not calling it in-person instruction, but we’re allowing one soprano, one alto, one tenor and one bass to come into the room for the online so that the people who are on the other side of the screen can hear the harmonies,” said Fuller. “It’s a creative solution that allows choirs to perform and hear how the harmonies come together.”

The choir members will also be using specially-made masks that won’t hinder their vocal performances.

“I don’t know if our choir director has received them yet, but I think they’re tighter around the perimeter of your mouth,” said Fuller. “There is a little extra room over your lips so you can still take in a deeper breath.”

As for fall performances, Fuller said the choir has dates, but remain uncertain if they will be in-person concerts.

“It could be the hugest venue we can find with only 25 people in the audience or it could be where the choir performs in-person to a empty audience, but it’s live-streamed,” she said. “For musicians, the culmination of that concert is the most important part you’re looking for. It’s going to happen either way, we just don’t know when. We’ll just make sure it’s done safely.”

The conservatory had a free concert series on the first Friday of every month called the Lunch and Listen Concert Series which has been postponed indefinitely, said Fuller.

“We’re thinking potentially finding creative solutions so we can offer a few more. We have had a lot of people in the community who have said they really miss concerts and if there’s anything we can think of. We’re trying to think of creative ways to get performing back out there.”

For more information on the University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music visit https://www.uleth.ca/music-conservatory.

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