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Music continues at MBCI despite shuttered doors


The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing requirements that came into place wreaked havoc for many institutions and industries, all thrust into a situation requiring them to try and juggle the realities of their world changing on a daily basis.
That was certainly no different for the school system, which was forced to cancel classes, shutter doors and send students home in mid-March for what would ultimately prove to be the rest of the school year, with no clear outline for what will happen in 2020-2021 yet either.
But out of the doom and gloom also came creativity and ingenuity. The Margaret Barbour Collegiate Institute band program took advantage of slowly relaxing social distancing guidelines and warm weather to be able to regain some semblance of normality and to help provide the community with some entertainment by hosting a series of Jazz Jam’s as well as a Concert Band Sight Read over the past month.
There have been six Jazz Jam sessions, as well as the Band Sight Read Session, since May 20, all held on the front lawn of MBCI. While weather did impact dates, the sessions did go ahead with all band members adhering to physical distancing protocols. Handfuls of people sat at a distance on the lawn, listening to the music played and providing applause and support for the students.
The idea for the performances was spawned from zoom meetings with other schools in the region. MBCI band program director Heather Gibson noted Thompson had their jazz jam sessions rained out while Flin Flon and Swan Valley each did a concert band performance outside the school.
When asked about the benefits of having the students come back together and perform, Gibson noted just having students together again in the day of social distancing and isolation proved immensely beneficial.
“Bringing the students together to make music again as a group! Some parents commented that they saw a totally different side of their child after being part of the band again,” explained Gibson. “It was also very positive for staff members and community members to hear live music being played again.”
Gibson also noted there were challenges, aside from the potential of a rain delay.
“The wind is always a struggle when you’re playing outside and trying to keep your sheet music from blowing away,” said Gibson.
Social distancing also had an impact.
“Usually you want to be close together so you can hear each other especially when you’re playing outside. Jazz Jams we formed a circle and that helped. The Concert Band Sight Read session was trickier because it was our first time ever playing these pieces together and the group was too large to be able to stand in a socially distanced circle. Social distancing is our new normal now so we will have to get used to playing spread out.” said Gibson. “The gym was an option with a small group but I really wanted to be able to share our music with the community and that’s just wasn’t going to be possible in doors.”
The feedback was extremely positive from the community, Gibson pointed out, something that helped encourage them to continue doing the sessions for the public. Comments called the performance a “morale booster” amongst other positive feedback.
Could the outdoor efforts resume in the fall when school is set to resume? While the weather will be cooling and the challenges of doing so would grow, Gibson didn’t rule it out, noting exactly what parameters the program and the division could go isn’t exactly known yet.
“No official news for September yet. I’m currently looking at purchasing hepa filters to help filter the air in the band room and looking at recommendations that have been put together by the Manitoba Music Educators Association,” said Gibson.

Trent Allen