Music department adapts to learning music at a distance

Performances canceled due to coronavirus pandemic


By Stacie Guevara, Associate Editor

Every department at Contra Costa College has canceled events, activities and classes due to the coronavirus pandemic, but none of them seems to be hitting students as hard as the music department, especially their chamber choir — the Contra Costa Singers.

With the cancellation of classes at colleges and schools throughout Contra Costa County, the music department at CCC is concerned.

Music department Chairperson Dr. Stephanie Austin said, in the music program at CCC, students learn how to read music, how to perform and how to present to an audience.

However, none of it is like the real experience of performing.

She said instruction and practice doesn’t mean as much if there are no performances.

Unfortunately, the Contra Costa Singers’ “SongFest” concert slated for last week has been canceled because it was going to take place at De Anza High School, which has been closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Contra Costa Singers had also planned a performance trip to New Orleans for April, but that has been postponed until spring 2021.

In the music department, a lot is up in the air right now, but students are staying positive and they know all of this has not been for nothing.

Dr. Austin said, “In the arts, we put our time, energy, emotion, passion and really our soul into our performances. If we don’t have our performances, it’s really like we got our soul taken out of us. People say to get over it, but you can’t get over it just like that. You can’t get over having your soul taken out.”

Music major Natasha Singer said, “Each one of us (in chamber choir) has a different commitment level to the music program, but we all share the same value of committing to class and enjoying it.

“The level of integrity that we learn here (in the music program) is an essential life skill,” Singer said.

To maintain their professional edge, music major Ninoangelo Lastimosa said they can practice individually and listen to recordings of their pieces being performed by other choirs, but their own sound is unique to them.

He also said not having classes could affect that in a bad way — that lack of community and physically being apart is detrimental.

As chairperson and performance program director, Austin said performances are essential.

She organizes multiple performance opportunities for students to gain performing experience. Just like any other class has multiple tests or multiple quizzes to prove that students know the material — this is no different.

“Actually performing instead of just rehearsing in class is so different. It’s important to see how your body reacts to it, how your mind reacts to it, how to get over nerves and how the venue can impact your performance,” she said.

“Realistically, let’s say a music major is going to be at CCC for two years, so four semesters. If they were here this semester, and all the performances are suddenly canceled, they are losing 25 percent of their curriculum. That’s a lot,” Austin said.

She said the music department has a great impact (on students) and there are a lot of layers that go into their concerts.

She said their performances are planned a year in advance, including contracting musicians and contracting venues.

“Without the performances, it demoralizes the entire department. Everyone involved has spent a year of their life trying to have a goal — the concerts. Not being able to have performances is disheartening and students become unmotivated,” Austin said.

If they don’t perform, they don’t see all their hard work come to fruition, she added.