The sounds pushing through restrictions

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Darren Ezernack

The North Penn Marching Knights playing at on of North Penn’s home football games

Since the dawn of North Penn, the performance groups of the schools have shown the true talent of those willing to go beyond. 

To the loud and bombastic marching band, to the harmonic chorus and choirs, to the home performances to across the state they seemed to have it all. They did, until something didn’t just shut down the world, but the hopes of continuing their talents as well. 

With the North Penn Marching Knights winning the national championship this year, let’s look back at what they had to work through during the shutdown. March of 2020 was a year to change the lives of everyone in the North Penn School District. Students were stuck at home fearing to go outside due to the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. News articles made it clear that this was no flu or cold, this was something dangerous, something lethal. A group that was hit hard by the new restrictions was the performance groups of North Penn. 

Groups such as the Columbia and Navy Jazz Band, chorus, choir, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Marching Knights, and Orchestra were not able to perform any shows for a year. It took much convincing from Joseph Santanello, the director of the Marching Knights, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and Columbia Jazz Band to allow a single performance in Spring of last year in person. Before, any performances were online, put together by individual recordings resulting in the sound of a performance. Although it was nice hearing what all the players sound like together. It just didn’t feel the same as being together and playing as a full band. 

It sucked, we didn’t have a season and it broke my heart. Not seeing my friends and doing what I love hurts.”

— Katherine Hinderliter, color guard, Clarinet

As of September of the 2020-2021 school year for the music and performing groups, it changed the entire way they performed. All bands in the North Penn District followed new COVID-19 guidelines as the bell covers (a fabric cover that goes over the bell of an instrument) to limit airflow and to prevent possible spread, although it came at a cost. With these covers, the sound of the instruments is muffled, not making it easy for people to hear or play. Although flutes got the easier option of just having to cover their mouths, not limiting the sound of the instrument. The in-school practices were also limited heavily with classes having 20 to 30 people at once, but as of the school year 2020-2021, they were limited to a maximum of 12 (and that’s if people come into school to play).

Although the school band was hit hard with the COVID restrictions, one group that got shut down was the North Penn Jazz Bands. These bands include the Pennfield Jazz Band, Penndale Jazz Band, Walton Farm Jazz Band, Pennbrook Jazz Band, NPHS Columbia, NPHS, Nazy, and NPHS All-State Jazz band. With all of these jazz bands shut down, no performances were made, no competitions were held, it all was gone in an instant. Although in the school year to make sure the jazz bands at least show off the skills of the players, the annual Mayfair was held where all the Jazz Bands performed 1 time to show the crowd the dedication of the musicians. Although the future is slowly but surely looking brighter in the 2021-2022 school year. Hopefully the next year for these amazing groups will return to the norm. 

We have been lucky enough to not have been affected too much by COVID. A lot of other schools have been having a huge decline in their music departments because of COVID, but we’ve stuck through it pretty well. We have been fortunate enough to have the resources and support we need to get through Google Meet band class last year and social distancing in band this year”

— Samantha Reamer, NPMK, Symphonic Clarinet, NPHS Columbia

What about now? Where does the North Penn School District stand with the COVID-19 limitations for the performing groups? Well as of September of 2021, the school seems to be lifting some restrictions for performing groups. The North Penn Color Guard now has a full season to participate in, and the North Penn Marching Knights will be going forward as if nothing happened, determined to have a normal season despite the problems of the outside world. As of now, nothing is known about the North Penn Jazz Bands, hopefully the future of the small ensemble groups can go on as normal similar to the NPMK. 

With the normal performance bands (Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band), it seems certain that sooner or later it will also go back to normal. With larger classes not seen since 2019, to the Bell Covers restriction being lifted, the North Penn High School Bands will be heading back home. Although performances are at a current uncertainty, hopes are high from the members of the North Penn music programs to show off their true talents with an instrument.

With that in mind, consider that not just the bands but chorus was also affected by the pandemic. Not having any instrument besides their voice, they were also put in the restrictions of the CDC and school district. Masking wearing has been a controversial topic, but kids having to sing through the mask was also pretty bad. With over 50% of the NPHS chorus behind a screen, only a small handful of kids had to experience the COVID affected class. Classes cut in half, mask wearing, and the stress of potentially shutting down schools similar to the previous year, it seemed all but certain that this year will be a bad one for chorus. Luckily as the world slowly reopens, the Chorus also opens up for everyone to come in. 

It may seem all bad for the bands and chorus of the NPHS, but the orchestra surprisingly didn’t get affected as badly. With string instruments not requiring any breathing, the only restrictions they had to follow were the basic mask wearing and social distancing. Yes, the classes were still cut short of people due to the option to just stay home and attend virtually. Although just like the bands and chorus, the orchestra is now letting people come in 5 days a week to attend the orchestra just as they did before. 

A dark year has passed for the performing groups of North Penn Highschool, with shattering the experience of newcomers to the school, to taking away the last year of school away from seniors, the school has stood strong with an iron fist against Covid. As more kids come into the school, they will be able to experience the performing groups in their full glory, even through the flames of restrictions set by the district, these strong willed, talented, and determined young performers stood with a smile behind their mask.