I think that we can all agree on one thing: Covid-19 has pretty much messed up everything. As for the Band Program at Blind Brook High School, it’s pretty obvious that it is impossible for it to run the way it used to. No more sitting and playing instruments within close proximity of each other. No more weekly band lessons. No more Jazz or Chamber Ensemble. The entire situation is extremely unfortunate, yet high school band instructor Brian Lotze will not let these crazy times stop the band from playing on.
Lotze exclaimed, “When I heard that band as we know it wouldn’t be possible this year, I knew that I had to come up with a way to continue the performance-based class that students grow to love in band. The most satisfying part of playing in a band is the camaraderie you form with your fellow musicians. The only other time that this same synchronized teamwork occurs is out on the field or court in sports. In order to provide this same performance-based growth, I decided to totally switch gears and have all the students signed up for band play in a percussion ensemble.” This is a bold move, clearly, as most of the students in the Band Program have never even touched a percussion instrument. Yet, it seems to be the only plausible way to continue the program. When asked how students, especially those who have never played percussion before, are handling the change, Lotze replied, “As with any new instrument, it takes time for the non-percussionists to get used to the new muscles they need to develop and techniques they need to master. Now that we’re a few months into the school year, I’m seeing huge growth from all of Blind Brook’s musicians! I hope that will be apparent when we create our videos for the Winter Concert.” Evidently, as for the in-school band program, so far so good.
Shifting gears to remote learning. Running the Band Program from home seems to be a bit more challenging. “Students who are working from home have a unique challenge. It’s absolutely impossible to recreate the ensemble experience through webcam-based services. The latency that exists when we video chat is just enough that everything is thrown off by a few milliseconds. In order to attempt to recreate this, I’m having all of my students complete SmartMusic assignments at home. We’re learning a piece together while apart! SmartMusic is an awesome program that listens to the student play their instrument and follows along with an accompaniment replicating playing with a full band. It’s not perfect but it’s better than practicing alone all the time!” Lotze seems to have a strong grip on the Band Program at Blind Brook, and it’s only his second year here! Go Mr. Lotze!
Continuing, not many are aware of the great lengths Lotze and his students are going to uphold their program. Lotze has started an Instagram page (@blindbrookhsbands) to “shine a light on the amazing things that musicians at Blind Brook are accomplishing, even with the many obstacles we face!” Additionally, Lotze, along with the Concert Band and the Wind Ensemble, are running a merchandise sale to raise money for our senior gifts. The gear features a brand new logo for the band.
In the end, adapting to the new procedures and Covid-19 protocol has not been easy. “As with any class or activity, the adjustment period has been prolonged and fraught with difficult situations to manage. I can’t have asked for a better group of students to help me through this time. At every step of the way, they’ve been eager to learn and willing to work with me and my many mistakes! I think that at this point in the school year we have a great rhythm going and it will only get better from here on out!”
Lotze describes the year so far as “exploratory.” Considering the drastic changes the band, along with all other factions of education have encountered, this simple word perfectly sums it up.