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The COVID cadence: LPHS teachers offer more music theory in band, chorus

Lake Placid band teacher Emileigh Kukuvka (Photo provided)

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid High School’s production of “Cinderella” was one week from hitting the stage in March when it was called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

No one knew at the time that musicals at the school — and music classes — would be changing for the foreseeable future.

Students returned to class in person last month after closing out the last school year studying remotely. Before students entered the building on Sept. 8, teachers arrived a few days prior to prepare for the unusual upcoming school year. This is the first time that the high school’s students and teachers are operating on a block schedule — and the first time they’re navigating school while following stringent public health guidelines.

Band and chorus, as well as physical education classes, have changed a lot this year.

In chorus and band, students are now required to stand 12 feet apart when they’re singing or playing instruments, double the usual 6-foot distance per public health guidance. That’s because singing and playing instruments are thought to produce more aerosols, with a stronger airflow, than talking would — and public health officials say the novel coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets spread through the air.

Lake Placid music teacher and musical director Taylor Prosper (Photo provided)

In part because of that restriction, though largely because health officials say mass-gatherings are a health risk right now, many live events that students would be practicing for and participating in — such as parades for band students, and the annual Christmas tree lighting for chorus students — are either canceled or up in the air.

“This year we’re really taking it week by week to see what’s available,” said Lake Placid band teacher Emileigh Kukuvka.

New class, lesson format

Kukuvka said both the middle and high schools still have 40-minute band lessons available to students.

The middle schoolers don’t meet for rehearsal, according to Kukuvka. “There’s too many of them,” she said.

High school students are experiencing more of a music theory and appreciation class than the normal band format. In chorus, students are learning about a number of different elements of singing, like rhythm, dynamics and pitch, according to music teacher and musical director Taylor Prosper.

Students in band are now being asked to sanitize their own instruments and wipe down their chairs.

With the new block schedule, general music classes are now 80 minutes long. Prosper said having that time has been beneficial — it’s allowed him to be able to dive deeper into concepts.

“There are some students that enjoy the 80-minute class,” Kukuvka said. “There are others that prefer 40-minute classes. I think the response (from students) this year has been that it’s very different. I haven’t heard much negativity.”

“It does feel different, but you can tell there’s a lot of hope for the future,” Prosper said. “They understand things have to be the way they are right now.”

Kukuvka and Prosper both said they think the Lake Placid Central School District is doing well with retaining a level of normalcy for students by allowing them to continue with band and chorus, as well as a number of electives.

“The district is doing a good job at giving it a level of normalcy for both us and the students,” Prosper said.

As for musicals, it’s unclear when the school will be able to bring back those productions. Prosper hopes that by May or June, it’ll be safe again to bring students back to the stage.