The mellifluous sound permeating through the air, the smooth motion of the conductor guiding the musicians, and the rewarding concerts from culminating months of rehearsals and practice are all reasons why being a part of orchestras has been so enjoyable for me in the past. Yet, because of the current pandemic, so many aspects of my orchestras have been changed, and sadly, I am not able to play music in the same way I did prior to the quarantine.
As we near our seventh month of quarantine, many have gotten used to the “new normal” of our daily lives. Whether it be wearing masks whenever we go outside, social distancing, or staying home whenever we can, we have all embraced these necessary practices in order to protect those who are vulnerable. However, one aspect of my current life during this pandemic that I cannot seem to grasp is virtual orchestras. For example, in one of my orchestras, my conductor has been consistently hosting rehearsals weekly via Zoom ever since the pandemic started, giving us individual advice on how best to play our parts. We even had a virtual concert this July, where each of us sent a video of ourself playing our part in sync with a backing track that our conductor had provided us with. It was a very unique experience and I do commend my conductor’s efforts in organizing all of this, but this whole idea of a virtual orchestra seems to me like it misses the point of being a member of such an ensemble. Music is supposed to be a social act, as it is a vessel through which we communicate our ideas and feelings to an audience, and it is not something that is to be done alone. Moreover, this social aspect of music is even more important in orchestras, where people come together to express uniform melodies. When orchestras switch to virtual settings, however, more focus is given to the individual rather than the group, due to the simple fact that orchestra members are forced to play in isolation. This makes it much harder for orchestra players to gauge how the whole orchestra would sound if it had been making music altogether, presenting an obstacle in creating pleasing music.
Although I miss playing with my orchestras in person, I’m certainly not saying that we all should ignore the pandemic and carelessly resume in-person classes. But much like schools, orchestras are much more meaningful when people gather together in person. Thus, it has allowed me to have a newfound appreciation for the life I had before the pandemic, when I used to be able to make music with my peers without having to stare at a screen for hours to do so.