Brandywine Middle/High School cancels choir concert

NILES — For the Brandywine Middle and High School choir instructor Denise Boger, the challenges with singing safely, and sometimes remotely, due to COVID-19 precautions and orders have disrupted most of her usual lesson plans.

Most recently, the Bobcats choir concert was canceled due to the pandemic order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which halts in-person instruction for high schoolers for three weeks beginning Wednesday. The concert had already been rescheduled from two weeks ago, due to the middle and high school shutting down in-person instruction temporarily due to a number of teachers being out for COVID-19 positives and exposures.

“We kept the songs going,” Boger said of the practices. “We also had started Christmas songs. Now, I don’t know if we’ll be able to do a Christmas concert.”

The concerts are not the only part of traditional choir Boger and her students are missing. Due to higher enrollment in virtual learning options, spacing issues and requirements to wear face masks at all times, the choir itself is smaller this school year.

“When we ended school last year, even though we were online, students had made their schedules,” Boger said. “I was supposed to have 62 in the choir, but when we came back, I had about 50, and I ended up bringing it down to 40. It’s still a lot.”

Boger is in her 27th year of teaching, and many of the adaptations have meant more hours of work on her end. The increased effort to adapt to online-learning sees less return from students, who she said are self-conscious of solo singing tests and weary from theory instruction.

When the students are in the classroom, Boger has tried to make adaptations.

“I have the chairs spread out as far as I can, but they have to wear their masks the whole time they are singing,” Boger said.

Even with plastic inserts to hold the center of the masks out from their lips, Boger said singing in the masks is more difficult.

“We can’t sing the whole time,” she said. “With the whole concert we had to figure out how many seats could be available. We can’t issue uniforms, so what were we going to wear?”

The many moving parts of adapting a performing art to COVID-19 precautions has been difficult for the whole choir, Boger said.

“The kids seem to roll with it, because they really want to perform. They really want to sing, play their instruments,” she said. “Luckily, the band got in one concert before we got shut down. We aren’t sure if [the choir will] get any Christmas concert.”

Boger had continued teaching music classes to kindergartners at the Brandywine and Merritt Elementary schools in-person when the elementary schools have been opened, but the Middle/High school has not.

No longer able to bring students down to a separate designated classroom for music class due to the classroom cohorting practices the elementary schools are employing, Boger has a music cart she brings to each class. She has had to rethink how she taught kindergarten music, which in the past has involved lots of hands on and shared instruments.

“The kindergarten kids, they are troopers,” she said. “They wear their masks and keep going. They’re still excited about everything. I think at the Middle/High School, I can see it taking a toll on the students. I have kids who signed up for choir, for the most part they’re doing really good, but I see how it drains them.”

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