Southwest Music Department Presents Courtyard Concert


Ellery Koomen, Managing Editor

Today, Southwest High School’s Music Department will have its first in-person performance since the pandemic. 

The concert will be held in Southwest’s courtyard. Masks are encouraged and refreshments will be available. Performed in three waves, the two hour program will begin with the guitar ensembles, then the choirs, followed by band and orchestra. Per tradition, the program notes for the concert will be written by the students in the IB music class offered at Southwest.

Choral director Mr. Fisher shared that, “This concert is our effort to continue with choir traditions, but also be flexible with the reality of COVID and where we’re at now.” 

The choir department has been taking precautions to rehearse as safely as possible by distancing chairs and increasing air circulation; The choir room’s high ceilings definitely help. In addition, there is a special air circulator and increased fan speed to rotate the room’s air supply. 

Mr. Wixson shared about COVID precautions unique to band and orchestra:

“Like choirs, we expel air and thus need to wear masks while playing. The woodwind masks have a horizontal zipper that opens up the mask to allow them to get to their mouthpiece and the brass players have a vertical zipper. The flute players have it the most difficult because their instrument expels a lot of air droplets, so their masks include an internal frame that holds a double fabric layer that keeps the aerosols from spreading. These masks were developed by the University of Minnesota through a collaboration between their science and music departments and were produced locally and they are used across the district in all of the band rooms.”

Mr. Fisher expressed how masked singing has created an unexpected communication barrier for him as a teacher. He explained how it’s not as easy for him to demonstrate things like vowel shapes, diction, etc. to his students, which has forced him to rely on a different set of skills.

This year Mr. Fisher has also begun organizing and establishing Southwest’s first Choir Council. This will be a select committee of students from each grade level, parents, and a Southwest administrator. They will meet together every month to develop a choir mission statement and then will work towards its implementation.

The committee will be challenged to ask questions like: 

What should choir look like at Southwest? Does choir at Southwest represent our school community? Do all students in choir feel seen, heard, and honored as individuals? 

Fisher concluded, “We all need those guiding principles and reminders instead of just doing what’s been done forever, let’s look at it again and say why are we doing this.”

The biggest change in the Music Department has been the significant drop in students involved. When Mr. Fisher started at Southwest the program consisted of around 600 students and this year there are only about half that. This can be attributed to a number of factors aside from COVID, including the 6-period day which has hit the arts hard as students taking a World Language only have time for one elective of their choice. 

“Our orchestra is small.” Mr. Wixson noted, “But since there is nothing that we cannot do due to COVID, we’re back at it in rehearsal working on string techniques, ensemble techniques and preparing pieces for the concert.”

Mr. Wixson said it best, “After a year of playing music through Soundtrap and over Google Meet, we so appreciate the opportunity to play in-person.”

Come support your Laker musicians tonight, October 14th!

Thursday, October 14th, 5pm – 7pm

5pm – Guitar Ensembles

6pm – Choirs

6:30PM – Jazz Big Band, Symphonic Band, Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble