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Music Department Innovates & Expands Reach

Valley Folk performs "Ho Hey"

“We had to get creative,” describes Director of Music & Music Vocation Jacob Burnstein when reflecting on how his department has adapted to the unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic. From weekly virtual performances, to new musical collaborations, Burnstein and his team have turned lemons into lemonade, as he would say. Since last March, instructors have continued to hold over 120 in-person and virtual lessons per week. They work one-on-one with our individuals––offering accompaniment and connection as they practice and perform new material. Lessons and rehearsals were the fuel for the over 70 virtual performances––Variety Hours, solo shows, full band sets, and ensemble concerts––hosted throughout the past year. The videos, which typically premiere on YouTube on Friday evenings, have amassed more than 5,500 views, and have provided a virtual space for our community to come together and celebrate music.

In what is set to be one of the enduring changes to emerge out of the pandemic, several new bands made their debut on the weekly virtual shows. Precipitated by the logistical challenge of having some band members on campus and others learning remotely, the music department began to reimagine the way we structure our vocational bands. In the fall of 2020, Distant Sounds, Valley Folk, and The Upbeats were formed––mixing those who had played together before with those who were new to each other. As a result, “some truly wonderful music and friendships have been made.” Whether putting a folksy spin on a classic, or adding a string arrangement to a rock song, students considered it a breath of fresh air to play music with new people. Looking ahead to when our program fully reopens, Burnstein plans to channel that philosophy and re-group performers based on their interests, instrumentation, and group dynamics. The move will create new opportunities and collaborations for individuals who plan to pursue music vocation after the Two-Year Transition Program.


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