The Music Scene of Quarantine


Alex Tisa

Hollis-Brookline musicians perform at a socially distanced concert at Nichols Field this summer. “It was a lot of hard work, but it paid off,” said drummer Miles Montgomery, ‘21 (pictured back-middle). Musicians have been hard-pressed to find opportunities where they can perform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alex Tisa, Head Editor

COVID-19 has affected many different aspects of our lives, but one that isn’t considered very often is live music. Live music is vital to many, and it plays a significant role in HB student culture. Without live music events like Guitar Night, Concert Band and Jazz Band concerts, students and staff have looked to new opportunities to further their musical endeavors.


Eric Perry, physics teacher at Hollis-Brookline, plays a head role in coordinating, planning, and organizing Guitar Night Club events. As a former professional touring musician, music plays an essential role in Perry’s life. In May, Perry led a remote Guitar Night concert for the school, where audience members could tune in over Zoom to watch students perform their songs, which they prerecorded. “Without the ability to perform live, we needed to figure out if we could still do the show. Although Zoom isn’t the best platform for live music, we learned a lot about Zoom settings to help maximize the music quality. Once we had enough of the Club members that wanted to perform, the rest fell right into place,” said Perry. 


Last spring’s Virtual Guitar Night was a success, and this winter’s is set to follow the same format, with a few slight tweaks. “It should be similar to the show we had in the spring. Because it is harder to collaborate, we have eased some of the old rules, and now collaborations with family members of any age are welcome, “ explained Perry. 


Another course area impacted by COVID-19 is HB’s band program. Chaz Rogers, band teacher, has done his best to maintain his curriculum throughout the pandemic. “In terms of what we’re offering this year, nothing’s changed. We’re still doing Concert Band, our Jazz Band, Honor’s Jazz Band, Guitar Class. We’ve even started a new class called Unified Music, which is a sort of general music class,” said Rogers. However, that’s not to say this year has been entirely normal. “The format of what we’re doing obviously has to be a little different. Performing with synchronized music and everything, it’s not necessarily doable,” explained Rogers.


Along with band teachers Ms. Nault at HBMS and Mr. Wallis at CSDA and HUES, Rogers had a little bit of trouble getting the required PPE (personal protective equipment) to play their instruments in class. “We needed specific PPE because, for an instrument like a clarinet, noise is made through air coming through different holes. So, we had to get these bags that cover that instrument, that have two holes in the back for your hands, so you can still play the instrument. It really prevents all of the aerosols from coming out,” explained Rogers. Teaching with COVID-19 brought additional issues. “We didn’t find out until August whether we were going to be remote or not, so we placed the order for these very late. We only got these (the PPE) and started actually playing in band class about a week ago.”


Without the PPE, Rogers was left to innovate new ways for the school band to perform. He looked to an online program called SoundTrap, a collaborative workspace for musicians to record songs and music. “SoundTrap is basically a digital audio workspace, like GarageBand. What it allows us to do is collaborate from a distance,” said Rogers. 

Rogers recorded a student-performed rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “Struttin With Some Barbecue,” with him filling in on certain tracks. “I had all the members of Honor’s Jazz Band come in and play their part to a metronome, in some cases synchronized with one another,” he explained. “Then, I invited each student (to the SoundTrap workspace) and they placed their own track in SoundTrap.”


For Rogers, quarantine has required him to adapt, allowing him to bring new ideas to students. “The most interesting thing about it is how it introduces new things to learn. I’ve kind of been using it as an opportunity to introduce these things that are relevant that we don’t usually get to talk about in band class.”


However, for students this year, “The biggest change in the music program has been going from live quarterly jazz band, concert band, and live biannual Guitar Night concerts to zero live concerts. This definitely took some of the fun out of playing music but we are still lucky that we’re able to play at school at all,” said drummer Miles Montgomery, ‘22.


Montgomery, a member of the Guitar Night Club, participates every year. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, he remains hopeful for music events in the future. “Although all live concerts have been cancelled, this winter’s Guitar Night will still be held on Zoom, so that’s a good opportunity for musicians to show their talent,” he explained. 


Additionally, Montgomery hopes to hold socially distanced concerts in the near future, “Outside of school, we have already held two extremely successful outdoor socially distanced concerts, and we have discussed holding more. In the winter this may be difficult, but hopefully in the spring we can start organizing some more outdoor concerts,” he said.


Now is a more critical time than ever for musicians to find music opportunities where they can. “I think that musicians should keep in mind that even though we can’t congregate right now, the world still needs music,” said Rogers.


This winter’s Guitar Night is slated for Dec. 11, at 7 pm.