Mandatory Social Distancing
Mandatory Social Distancing
2020 | 5'40"
At least for right now, while we are going through the quarantine and “social distancing” phase of the COVID-19 “Coronavirus” global pandemic, I think we all have moments that we can recall exactly where we were when the gravity of the situation first encountered each of our personal lives. Will this become a long-term memory, such as remembering where you were on 9/11 or when the Challenger exploded? I’m not sure; only time will tell.
For me, it was a Thursday at the Philadelphia airport. I had spent my week in Delaware doing a residency with a colleague, friend, and band director, working with his students. Wednesday evening, while out to dinner with another local friend, the director called me to let me know that my last day (Thursday) was called off, as the school administration pulled the plug on any outside personnel being in the building. So my trip was cut short and I was at the airport, waiting for my flight back home. Shortly after arriving to the airport and settling in for a long-ish wait, Dr. Jay Sconyers called me. The first thing Jay asked was a question that hit right on a thought I had the night before: Could we create a virtual wind ensemble?
As we chatted, the idea of the consortium came up - not as a means of making it easier/more accessible (financially) for anybody to participate, but to grab the bull by the horns and embrace our new reality: with our students all learning and participating in school via the Internet, web conferences, and the like, why couldn’t we have one large, massed ensemble with participants from around the country?
At this point, this project started to take off. Over the course of the following days, more and more states and institutions began pulling the plug and moving to online-only classes for the remainder of the semester and thus the interest to participate in the consortium took off. Jay and I had hoped to hit possibly 10 schools to participate; we never imagined it would surpass 20!
The writing process of this work occurred while the impacts of the pandemic really started to set in: people home from work, stores running low on supplies, and people of all walks of life coming to terms with what our new “normal” would be for the time being. Observing the people around me and my own life really inspired much of this piece. First, I wanted to create a journey (for myself, for the performers, and for our audience) through the emotions that we were all experiencing now, along with an optimistic outlook for what the future will bring. Second, I realized that, with all the stress and anxiety we were experiencing, it was important to take a breath and find reasons to laugh.
With that, you’ll find throughout the work, there are some moments of tongue-in-cheek (for example, at Rehearsal 31, the tempo is marked as “Hurrying, but not running, to the last pack of toilet paper”) and recognizing that many of the percussionists who will be participating do not have equipment at home, so the percussion parts are encouraged to be “found percussion,” embracing sounds that the students might be able to find in their homes.
In the end, I’m blessed and grateful to have had this project to be my personal vehicle of understanding the situation at hand. I can’t wait to share the work with the directors and their students, to talk to everyone involved over web conferences, and to receive their final video submissions.
Thank you to all!