KO musicians keep the arts alive while social distancing


Everyone has certainly been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Schools are closed, work is limited, and social distancing is necessary. Those involved in the performing arts not only have to adjust to these changes, but also to others with regard to doing what they love. KO’s own musicians have had to overcome many obstacles but ultimately have been able to keep up with their playing and practicing.

Senior Marwynn Somridhivej, an avid violinist and pianist, has had to adapt to the times. He has been able to continue practicing both the piano and the violin while social distancing at home. One positive aspect of the current situation is that he has had more time to focus on his music. “Compared to during normal school, I practice a lot more because I have more time to, and the workload from school is a fraction of what it usually is,” he said.

Marwynn takes private lessons through Zoom, and despite the fact that staying at home has not altered his ability to practice, he often has trouble during lessons as the sound quality tends to vary. “Occasionally, the teacher or I will have to repeat a section again to make sure everything is alright before moving on,” he said. 

Although in-person lessons are obviously more productive as it is easier for the teacher to demonstrate skills, Marwynn believes that lessons over Zoom are quite feasible. “It is the most practical solution so that [musicians] can still continue to improve, rather than having no [lessons] at all,” he said.

Marywnn also takes part in the Connecticut Youth Symphony Orchestra at the Hartt School of Music. The ensemble is trying to meet over Zoom, but because playing in-sync over the internet is not a viable option, their goal is to have each musician record their part in advance and then add them together using a program called GarageBand to create a complete piece. This is still a work in progress, but Marwynn is excited to hear the final product. 

With his newfound free time, Marwynn has also been able to do some music-related things that he normally would not have the time to do, such as arrange different pieces of music that he and his friends enjoy.

Like Marwynn, sophomore Zeno Chen, an alto saxophone player, has found that in quarantine, he has much more time to focus on his instrument. “Having less homework and no sports gives me a lot more free time to practice,” Zeno said.

For his private lessons, Zeno has been using Zoom. “We actually are able to get a lot of productivity from our lessons, and it’s not too different from an actual lesson,” he said. Like many other musicians using online platforms to continue their lessons, Zeno has found that the sound quality and feedback during his private lessons are often poor.

Zeno is a member of the Greater Hartford Youth Wind Ensemble through the University of Hartford. Playing together as a large ensemble has not worked out for the group thus far. “We just have a Google Classroom and everyone is signing up for SmartMusic for extra practice,” Zeno said. “The conductor still plans to premiere the piece we are working on by having everyone record separately and putting them together.” 

Junior Sadie Margolis, a singer, dancer, and actress, has been taking voice lessons every week, dance lessons nearly every day, and acting lessons. “It is challenging to dance in my room and to be quiet, especially during tap classes on my tap board,” she said. 

However, like both Marwynn and Zeno, Sadie has been practicing more frequently, honing her skills. “This is actually really good before applying to college for a BFA in musical theater,” Sadie said.

Her musical theater voice teacher and acting teacher are both from New York, so Sadie had been using FaceTime to connect with these instructors even without the social distancing order; consequently, these private lessons have not been too different for her. On the other hand, her classical voice teacher is local, so these lessons have certainly been more difficult. “My classical voice teacher is older and is getting used to FaceTiming for voice lessons, especially because in classical training, the teacher has to hear specific resonances which are hard over the phone,” she said.

Sadie’s dance lessons in ballet, modern, and jazz are continuing as normal online, but for tap, the dancers have to mute themselves on Zoom, or else the rhythms will be a beat behind. “When you dance, it’s important to be in sync,” Sadie said. “This is very hard [over Zoom] since I am so used to being in a dance studio following the teacher from the back.”

It is certainly clear that as a result of social distancing, there have been many changes implemented for those involved in the performing arts. KO musicians have been able to adapt to these unique modifications, enabling them to pursue their passion for the arts.