On Feb. 15, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, or YSO, resumed in-person rehearsals for musicians who are enrolled in classes on campus.
Since the end of Yale College’s residential college quarantine period, YSO has been rehearsing in Hendrie Hall’s band room instead of their typical practice location in the building’s Blocker Rehearsal Hall. This band room is larger, which allows players to maintain 6-feet social distancing. Through a rotation process which allows groups of 18 masked orchestra members to rehearse together, each musician gets the chance to rehearse in person at least once a week.
“There is no substitute for playing together, because there’s this lag time on Zoom that just makes it virtually impossible — no pun intended — to play synchronously,” YSO President Stella Vujic ’22 said.
School of Music guidelines cap the number of people simultaneously allowed in the room at 20. To adhere to these guidelines, rehearsals include the 18 musicians, as well as manager Brian Robinson and conductor William Boughton.
The musicians enter the building one by one for rehearsal and have to check in at the front security desk, which has a roster of musicians who are slated to rehearse that day. Following School of Music guidelines, musicians are discouraged from talking or moving around the room more than necessary. At the end of each rehearsal, Robinson hands each musician a sanitizing wipe for them to clean their stand and chair before dismissing them individually.
Currently, only enrolled string musicians are permitted to participate in these rehearsals. String musicians who are not enrolled can tune into rehearsal via Zoom and follow along on their instruments.
Vujic explained that wind and brass musicians must make music with their breath, which spreads respiratory droplets at a high rate and makes it nearly impossible for safe indoor rehearsals with these instruments. Still, she said the YSO is brainstorming ways to hold outdoor rehearsals for wind and brass players as the weather gets warmer.
In the meantime, wind and brass players are rehearsing virtually in small groups and receiving coaching sessions from School of Music students over Zoom.
Percussion players can play their instruments while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, but they have been unable to rehearse in person or participate in YSO this semester because the professional instruments they use belong to the School of Music and are not accessible to undergraduates this semester.
“Currently, our ability to participate in YSO depends on each percussionist’s access to instruments,” YSO percussionist Angelica Lorenzo ’24 said.
Still, Lorenzo mentioned that three percussion players have stayed involved socially through the YSO families program, where members from different class years and musical sections are placed into small social groups.
Nevin George ’23, the only YSO percussionist currently on campus, said it was “very disappointing” that percussionists have been unable to participate in YSO this year due to lack of instrument access.
George said that this semester, the YSO is rehearsing pieces it plans to perform in the coming fall, including Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”
“This is one of the best pieces in the repertoire for percussion, and it has been a dream of mine to play it for many years now,” George said. “However, while all the other sections are doing master classes on the piece and preparing their parts, percussionists have no way of learning the piece. Music was one of the main reasons I chose to come to Yale over other colleges, and it feels like a part of me has been missing for the past year.”
According to Vujic, YSO has not yet scheduled performances or recordings for this semester and is focusing on “playing music for the joy of playing it together.” The orchestra is working on pieces solely for strings such as a Mozart Divertimento and the Shostakovich Chamber Symphony.
Last semester, YSO rehearsed over Zoom in sections in which they practiced by having one person play while other musicians played along while muted. Vujic said that though this rehearsal format was not ideal, preserving continuity and solidarity for the orchestra throughout the pandemic was essential.
“Before the pandemic we all saw YSO as a weekly fixture in our lives, and didn’t appreciate every moment of it as much as we should have,” Vujic said. “But now, just being together, just playing pieces for the joy of playing them, is really great.”
Hendrie Hall is located at 165 Elm St.
Marisol Carty | email@example.com