C/O McMaster University Concert Band
The McMaster University Concert Band looks forward to bringing the band together in person as COVID restrictions ease
Under the School of the Arts, the McMaster University Concert Band offers students the opportunity to practice music in an ensemble setting, engage with the Hamilton community through performances and meet other students interested in music while doing so.
No matter which discipline or program you belong to, all McMaster University students are welcome to audition for the band.
Students can choose to join the concert band as a course for credit if they would like. Regardless of whether students are receiving credit or not, all players complete the same band activities.
Typically, the MCB gathers together for rehearsals once a week and holds three regular performances. Additional performances and engagements with the community also occur throughout the year.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensemble conducted all rehearsals and performances online in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Speaking to last year’s experience, President of the MCB, Duncan McCallum, said that although doing everything online was not an ideal experience, the band was able to learn a lot from the challenges they overcame.
“It was a much more collaborative process. We were all trying to figure it out together so that was I think rewarding and certainly something new that was cool to experience,” said McCallum.
Doing everything online taught the band that there are benefits to working in smaller groups and that virtual participation opens up opportunities for more guest speakers or musicians to engage with the band.
Now, for the 2021-2022 academic year, McMaster has announced that students are welcome to come back to campus. However, many COVID-19 protocols are still in place. If the band wishes to incorporate in-person components within their rehearsals, they must adhere to the protocols.
Thus, McCallum said that exact plans for how the school year will play out are still undetermined. For now, meetings will be conducted virtually.
McCallum explained that having to consider the different instrumental needs of the band introduces an added level of difficulty for meeting in person. Different mask procedures would also have to be adapted to accommodate the players.
In addition, social distancing poses another barrier for the band. Students have to remain six feet apart. In a typical year, the band is comprised of about 70 students, so finding enough space for the band to meet would be difficult.
Despite all these challenges, McCallum looks forward to bringing the band together in person.
“There’s a lot of barriers to [meeting] in-person, but I think everyone’s so eager to do so that we’re just going to jump on it any chance we get, [even if] that means playing outside in a parking lot [or] being spaced out in the bleachers of the concert hall so that we’re all far away [enough] from each other,” said McCallum.
Wendy Tang, vice-president of the MCB, said that on top of practicing music, building a community is also an essential part of the band’s culture.
“Apart from rehearsals, as execs we also ran a lot of events so students can also feel that community because honestly, a big part of our concert band aside from it being a band is also the community that we’ve built,” said Tang.
Having events where students can socialize and get to know each other is something that the executives of the band aim to do every year.
McCallum also emphasized that despite still having to do things online, learning from experiences from the previous year greatly benefits the new year.
“[Not just the band, but] a lot of classes and clubs, they [also] felt like they adapted because they had to, not because [it was] the best circumstance. This year, we want to make it the most rewarding experience we can with whatever is thrown at us, whether that means being online for part of the semester or being in-person as much as we can,” said McCallum.