Long Time No Play: Live Concerts Return to Chamblee

Band seniors gather post-Wind Ensemble concert

Photo courtesy of Colleen Marin

Band seniors gather post-Wind Ensemble concert

Kaylee Powell, Staff Writer

Homecoming week was packed with afternoon activities, including the first time the orchestra and band played for over 18 months. After being let out in March 2020 and doing the entire 2020-2021 school year online, the musical students of Chamblee weren’t sure if they were going to get to play live again.

“I love hearing music live, especially when I’m performing it, so finally having a concert after so long was a breath of fresh air,” said percussionist Jackson Smith (‘23).

Both the band and orchestra were preparing for concerts when the pandemic first struck.

“If I’m being honest, playing in that recent concert seemed normal to me, even with not playing for 2 years. When I found out the concerts were canceled last year, I wasn’t surprised. I was expecting to not have any concerts, but it was still disappointing to hear,” said cellist Jessica Perez (‘22).

There was also a bit of stage fright that came to some students after not being on stage in so long.

“I was more nervous than anything else. I have always had stage fright even when playing with others. My stage fright has gotten better over the years, but it definitely has not gone away,” said Perez. “I felt normal after like I just played a concert. I believe everyone else felt the same way and there was a bright atmosphere filled with laughter.”

The students were impressed by their own work as well. The breath of fresh air they had after was also a bonding point between the ensembles.

“I felt relieved after playing because we had done so much work in addition to not playing together for an entire school year. The atmosphere was pretty similar. Everyone was really happy to get it over with and felt pretty accomplished after being out for so long,” said cellist Gabby King (‘23)

With COVID-19 still being a prevalent issue, there were bound to be a few pandemic-related issues.

“I did forget a few basics of my instrument. I had stopped practicing for a while during the pandemic so when I looked at music again it felt overwhelming but I just took it slow and it all came back pretty quickly,” said King.

The band had a little more adjusting to do though. Orchestral instruments require no extra COVID-19 precautions, but brass and woodwind instruments can increase the spread of the virus when not careful.

“In our band classes, the first few weeks were a struggle. No one had any of the equipment to play their instruments safely, so nothing really happened. Mrs. Marin tried to circumvent this by spreading us out in the auditorium but that didn’t really end up happening,” said Smith.

When technology isn’t being used for a long time, it sometimes has problems. The auditorium hadn’t been used for shows since March, so the lights were an issue.

“We didn’t have any technical difficulties during the concert, but when we rehearsed on stage in class the lights kept going out so that was a little alarming since it was the day of the concert,” said King.

One major difference between the concerts was the 30-minute break they were required to take.

“DeKalb county had us clear the auditorium for 30 full minutes before the next group performed,” said orchestra teacher Philip Barnard. “It worked out perfectly and that’s kind of sort of how concerts have been anyways so it sort of worked fine.”

From the beginning of the show to the end, the audience was impressed by all the work the students had done.

“We were just warming up still, and we played a few bars of the opening number and I stopped and the audience was murmuring and gasping because of how good they sounded. I turned to the audience, at that point, because we hadn’t really started the concert and said ‘You guys haven’t heard anything yet, just wait,” said Barnard.

The orchestra had other adjustments to get used to this year though, including a brand new teacher.

“It was different not only because of COVID with all the safety procedures, but we also had a new conductor. We had way more comfortable uniforms, but we were a little unprepared. Usually, before concerts, we would have a rehearsal, but this time that didn’t happen. The main reason was because of the difficulties with COVID, so we were unable to have one. This made us a little sloppy, but I believe we still had a good performance,” said Perez.

Even though the students were nervous about their performance and felt underprepared, Barnard was confident in his students’ concert skills and their year-long class performance.

“[My students] really kept up [their] game […] the whole pandemic. The truth is […] these students stayed dedicated to their art and they stayed dedicated as artists and they kept their fundamentals going so I’m super proud of them,” said Barnard.