Instrumental music

Social distancing allows music to go on


The implementation of COVID-safe practices has had a significant impact on the way instrumental music programs are run, particularly in schools.

Instrumental music
School-based instrumental music programs have introduced guidelines in relation to the use of certain types of instruments. Photo: Courtesy Fede Casanova/Unsplash


School and youth-based instrumental music programs, such as those run by Education Queensland, have had to change the way they go about teaching students in order to follow the COVID-safe social distancing guidelines for extracurricular activities.

More specific guidelines have been set for instrumental music programs where the risks already found in a school environment are expanded.

This includes due to the sharing of sheet music and the use of certain types of instruments, such as woodwind or brass instruments that require the intake of breath and blowing into instruments.

The guidelines state that in a school environment, “members of large bands, choirs or ensembles are able to rehearse in the same location (indoors or outdoors), ensuring that current hygiene management practices are maintained”.

The guidelines include disinfecting all equipment between uses, washing hands before and after performing, socially distancing while setting up, playing, and packing up, and the substitution of some instruments for others that pose less risk of spreading infection.

Diane Alley is a strings instructor for Education Queensland and teaches at four schools in the Logan area.

Ms Alley said although lessons were now being conducted in person again, she believed students had had difficulties during lockdown in terms of accessing teaching materials, although she said she believed setting up online materials was not without long-term benefits.

“I think it [learning online] hasn’t all been bad because the students have learnt to use online platforms,” she said.

Ms Alley said having the online resources available could be helpful when students missed classes for whatever reason.

“When someone is ill, for example, or they break their arm and they cannot play, it is a good thing to say, ‘Okay, you can now use this online platform to access the lessons’,” she said.

Being COVID-safe hasn’t just had an impact on music lessons, but has also impacted orchestras.

Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra
Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra have been able to social distance while rehearsing, but worry they won’t have sufficient space to perform. Photo: Courtesy Shaun Dorney


Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra Director of Music Shaun Dorney said while it was good to be able to rehearse in person again since COVID-19 restrictions were reduced, he believed orchestras would still have significant issues performing to audiences due to ongoing social distancing requirements.

“A lot of them [the students] have said ‘I missed this so much… it’s been great to see everybody again’,” Mr Dorney said.

“The worst thing is that at the moment we are not quite sure how we can perform, because by the time we get enough room between the players, there is no room for an audience,” he said.

To get around this, Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra have recorded a number of their “distanced” performances for audiences to watch.

Their performances of “Ode to Joy” and “Amazing Grace” can be viewed on YouTube.

Griffith Conservatorium Bachelor of Music student Nikhil Deo said he believed learning and performing music at a distance had significant drawbacks.

“If you are doing things digitally in the sense of recording, then sending that recording to someone, it loses the sense of spontaneity of a live performance,” Mr Deo said.

“If you are performing in front of people, it gives you adrenaline, and if you use that adrenaline well, which we learn as part of our degree, we can actually turn that into a really good performance.”

Mr Dorney said he believed instrumental music programs were important because teaching music helped students with learning social skills, teamwork, and other useful talents.

“When you join an instrumental music program, you get assessed, and it helps get both hemispheres of the brain working,” he said.

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