UA senior music students are performing their graduation recitals in front of virtual audiences as one of the many adjustments to COVID-19 the department has made.
Students may choose between performing live at one of the two on-campus concert halls with an accompanying livestream, submitting an off-campus recording or completing an alternative assignment with consent from the area coordinator and department chair, according to the UA Department of Music.
Caleb Mathis, a senior saxophonist majoring in music education, performed his senior recital on Oct. 30. Mathis felt the experience was less personal than past recitals because of the lack of audience feedback and a backing accompanist, but he did his best to adapt to the unusual circumstances, he said.
“I was as happy with the accommodations as I could be,” Mathis said. “Obviously everything is less than ideal but I just consider myself lucky to have been able to have a (somewhat) live recital.”
Mathis and his instructor often experienced technical difficulties during their zoom rehearsals and practices, which left Mathis feeling unprepared, he said. Mathis practiced for his recital with piano accompaniment recordings, cutting a few songs he originally selected to perform.
Much of Mathis’s degree is dependent upon performance and with the changes caused by the current pandemic, staying motivated has been difficult, he said. Although the situation is less than ideal, Mathis is grateful for the role making music has played in his life and he is eager to perform again with his friends, he said.
The department has adjusted its recital format following the lead of schools like University of Colorado and Maryland State University, said Ronda Mains, chair of the Department of Music. Many music performances have been labeled as possible super-spreader events, she said. The department has provided many resources, like piano key sanitizing wipes and bell covers, to minimize the risk and continue to adjust protocols accordingly.
“One of the highlights as a music professor is to watch students perform their senior recitals where they have synthesized years of study and practice,” Mains said. “I miss seeing the parents and family members enjoy their student’s performance.”
Although students have faced many challenges in going virtual, they have kept a positive attitude about the situation, Mains said. While using Zoom has made music collaboration more challenging, teachers are finding ways to gather useful data from their recorded classes.
Virtual performances can also be beneficial for those nervous to perform in front of a live audience. Lily Fuentes, a senior majoring in music education, was less nervous to perform her recital on Friday with a virtual audience, she said.
A clarinet player, Fuentes said she began practicing for her recital during quarantine, which allowed her ample time to select and practice her chosen pieces. She has transitioned from practicing in the music building to inside her apartment bedroom, causing her to worry about disturbing her roommates and neighbors, she said.
Before the pandemic, Fuentes planned to perform a chamber piece featuring three other clarinetists, but had to cut the piece because they are not allowed to perform in groups.
“I am excited about getting to perform the pieces that I’ve been working on, because they’re so much fun to play,” Fuentes said. “I am sad that there isn’t going to be a live audience. As nerve wracking as it would’ve been I would have loved to share it with my friends, teachers and family in person.”
For Fuentes, and many other music education majors, this is their final solo performance before they are set to begin student teaching.
“I’m excited to perform my senior recital and I think it’s great that we still have the opportunity to do this during these crazy times,” Fuentes said. “I definitely wish I could have all my professors and friends and family, those who have helped me get to where I am, be there in person but I know they’ll watch the livestream and it’ll be great."
All recitals will be live streamed on the UARK Music YouTube page and uploaded afterward for viewers to watch.