LANDRY HIGH SCHOOL, ALGIERS NEIGHBORHOOD, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– As schools across the country return after the summer, many of them are partially or fully virtual due to the coronavirus. Part of the story of having student’s learn from home is how to hold extracurricular activities.
The last performance from Landry High School’s marching band was in the Orpheus parade during Mardi Gras. Over the next few weeks, the students would be preparing for concert band season.
Wilbert Rawlins is the director of bands at Landry and says, “I gave my students the same speech I gave at Carver. For Hurricane Katrina I was the director at George Washington Carver. We had one rehearsal and went over the warm up and the first 32 measures of a song, and the next day they told us we would be leaving school for a couple of weeks.”
Normally band students would have been about six weeks into practice before the other students return from summer. They learn about two field shows and thirty songs early on in the season. For this years coronavirus affected classes, Rawlins uses his smart board and laptop to instruct from afar by giving his students take-home instruments and keyboards to help them keep up with music theory basics.
“Some of the challenging aspects now, is the fact that band is a physical activity. Band is about blending and balancing with each other. So we have serious challenges because it’s so new. We have to figure this thing out.”
Music is vital to the youth of New Orleans. Music class helps to keep students out of the trouble of a dangerous but wondrous city and many programs like Landry’s Marching Band also provide meals to students who might not get them elsewhere.
However, student musicians hold the spirit of New Orleans in their hands and likewise are very important to keep safe.
“I miss them. I miss the children. I suppose band these days is in a fermata. A fermata is a symbol on a piece of music that comes up after an emotionally potent phrase, that tells the musician to stop. This creates a silent space until the director brings them back in. During these times, God is the conductor and we’ll resume in his perfect timing.”