NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – While in-person learning will begin again on Monday, many changes had to be made to how classes are held, and even the classes themselves. Music-related activities are where some of those changes took place, specifically choir and band.
Neil Swapp, Executive Director of the New Mexico Music Educators Association, said the state Public Education Department made allowances for student musicians to practice in-person where students can sing and play their wind instruments outside at a distance of nine feet between each person. NMMEA President Amy Williams said students are also able to sing and play an instrument alone in a practice room with the door closed. There would need to be an hour of time after that where the room would be empty to air it out. She said student bands will play outside under a tent.
As far as the typical end of the year performances, Swapp doesn’t think it will be likely this year due to the strict guidelines for choral and band playing. “I don’t think most of our teachers would be able to perform, especially at the nine-foot distance. There’s just a lot that has to go on for a performance to happen and I don’t think that will be possible,” Swapp said.
The Center for Disease Control website says that students must maintain six feet of distance during activities when increased exhalation occurs such as singing, shouting, band, or sports and exercise. Swapp said as of right now, New Mexico requires schools to hold those activities outside.
Swapp said many teachers are focused on doing what they can for the remainder of the school year with the hope of a less strict set of guidelines for the fall semester. “Now not only will these teachers have to teach students at nine feet, but they’ll also have students trying to Zoom into the class and some of those teachers won’t have internet access outside,” Swapp said.
Williams said she hopes to continue encouraging students that these circumstances will not be in place forever. “It’s not an ideal, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our music teachers are super creative and even though the nine-foot regulation is not ideal, they’re glad that they get to see students and be able to make music in some fashion, hoping that we can address some of the equity issues and hoping we can get back to more of a normal class experience for our music students in the fall,” Williams said.
The previous re-entry plan was revised after Swapp and other music educators around the state spoke out about not being allowed to practice in person. The NMMEA has a list of resources for teachers and students about how to practice safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit their website for more information.