Life as a Music Student During a Pandemic

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Jenson-Noble Music Hall sounds a little different this year. Many rehearsals don’t take place in the music building anymore and many lessons are either virtual or outdoors, if Mother Nature cooperates. Being a musician at Luther used to be confined to Jenson, unless of course you had a theory class in the Olin basement. Now, if I open my windows at my home in Baker Village, I can hear a choir rehearsing in the city pool or I can hear a trumpet lesson taking place outside while I walk to class.

Adjustments Help Keep Us Safe

As a music major, I have had many semesters where I head to Jenson-Noble for my 8 a.m. class and didn’t leave until 8 or 9 p.m. at night. Now, I feel like I’m barely there. There are practice rooms in residence halls that many students use and most of my music classes have moved around campus as the classrooms in Jenson are a bit too small for safe physical distancing. I walk to my first class in Main Building for Marching Band Methods and head to the Qualley Lounge in the Center for Faith and Life for my flute lessons twice a week. It all feels very different but we know it’s for the best.

Using Our Imagination

One way Luther music students show their creativity is through their instrument-specific protective equipment. Flutes, oboes, bassoons, and clarinets have different “socks” covering the ends of their instruments. Brass players and saxophones use bell covers. Many brass players now keep a swatch of fabric on the ground to collect any condensation from their spit-valves. You’ll also see a variety of masks! Some are from the Luther Book Shop, others handmade, some with bright colors and patterns, and others that coordinate with someone’s outfit for the day!

Making Music and Growth In a New Normal

I think that for many of us, wearing a mask is now part of everyday routine. I know I catch myself coming home and starting to prepare dinner and I ask myself ten-minutes later “wait, why do I still have this on?” Although it has become more regular now, I know singing with a mask on was an uncomfortable transition for many. I remember the discussions in the atrium of Jenson as everyone is anxiously awaiting to audition for choir. Many were worried as they hadn’t practiced with a mask until just that morning. Now, many of us await the arrival of our singers-masks to keep everyone safe but to also aid in our music-making.

Currently, as many of us head for our ensemble rehearsals, we are in different spaces. Orchestra is no longer in the orchestra room, Concert Band is no longer in Sperati, and choirs are no longer in the choir room. Orchestra and Band are in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL) on a daily basis while choirs rehearse in small groups indoors in the Noble Recital Hall (NRH) or in larger groups outdoors. Only once a week do choirs have the opportunity to rehearse in the CFL as a full ensemble. Making music six feet apart is something we are all still getting accustomed to, but we know we'll all grow to be better musicians in the future despite these challenges.

Being Grateful

While there are so many changes and on-going questions regarding what music at Luther will look like in the coming months, many of us students try to look at the bright side. At Luther we are fortunate to have a space like the CFL to rehearse in as a full ensemble; we are grateful to have faculty and staff who have gone out of their way in planning! Those who work in the music office have been slammed planning for a virtual Christmas at Luther, organizing a practice room reservation schedule, assigning keys to students to attend lessons, and moving classes around to other buildings. For many of us, this is why we chose Luther College: for the campus, the people, the community, and the resilience.

Olivia Steffl '21 is shown practicing her flute with instrument-specific protective equipment known as a"sock."

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  • October 26 2020 at 3:31 pm
    Ragna Urberg

    This is great. I am proud that Luther students are resilient. It makes me so sad that manyvwaste a lot of time complaining. I am glad Luther students simply find a way to carry on. That is a great life skill. 


  • October 27 2020 at 11:17 am
    Linda K Martin

    Yes!  Resilience, flexibility, adaptability, compromise - these are all admirable traits we hope our students are developing and seeing modeled here at Luther.  We can't be selfish these days, but must think of the others who share our campus, our community and our world.  Thanks Olivia!

  • November 9 2020 at 10:13 am
    Paul Reimann

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Awesome to see the adaptations and modifications to continue your participation and learning at Luther. Best of luck and stay well!

  • November 9 2020 at 1:25 pm
    Elaine Kennedy '86 - music

    Really nice glimpse of how things are working during this pandemic.  Some things hadn't occurred to me like the sock coverings.  Thanks, Olivia.  Be safe & good luck to you.

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