Southern Nazarene University’s goal this semester has been to provide the opportunity for in-person classes and a great college experience while keeping health and safety a priority. Examples of this have been social distancing, wearing masks, and having several sanitizing stations available around campus. One area that has been greatly affected by these changes is the School of Music.
Chorale is a premier choir group that studies choral literature and meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon. Concert choir is a large ensemble that meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1 PM. These groups have still been able to meet regularly, but there are a few changes that have taken place to ensure safety and to keep health a priority.
One big change has been the location of class and practices. Both groups used to meet in the choir room, which is located in the Parker Fine Arts Center, the music building on SNU’s campus. However, social distancing policies have caused these groups to meet in other buildings, such as Herrick Auditorium or Cantrell Hall. This allows students to spread out more and stay protected. Sectionals for the different parts – sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses, have also taken place in different rooms of the music building to reduce the number of people meeting.
Another change has been the requirement to wear masks. Everyone must wear a mask to prevent the spread of germs, even while singing. Since wearing masks while singing is not the easiest thing to do, the School of Music has provided special masks for the students to wear. These masks extend out from the face to allow more “breathing” room to sing.
Dr. Jim Graves is the choir and chorale director for the SNU School of Music. He explained, “Singing is connection. Singing in ensembles is collaboration in something that is not achievable by oneself. We take different races, different opinions, different fears, different political views, and different people and combine to create something that is bigger than all of us. Here at SNU the vast majority of that is lifting our voices to God. We meditate on truths found in scripture and poetry to collectively express our heartfelt praise to God.”
He explained, “One of our big tasks was to figure out what we were working toward. We decided to try and make live music videos of our ensembles. SNU Creative will help with the shooting of video, some of our Commercial Music Production students will be assisting with the recording process, and I will be doing most of the editing. We plan to use some of our videos for the Virtual Homecoming along with sharing our music virtually throughout the year. One of our big events every year is “Sounds of Christmas.” With the semester ending before Thanksgiving we will not be able to have that event, so we will definitely be doing a heavy dose of Christmas music to be released after Thanksgiving.”
Leah Benn, a senior music major at SNU, participates in and plays piano for choir. She said, “I love being in choir because of the unique product we make by bringing ourselves, our voices, and our experiences together. As we are safely striving to offer belonging and community in a time that is more isolating and anxiety-producing, we are able to experience the joy of making art that is greater than what we can make on our own.”