Following the annual spring break in March, Powell River Academy of Music remained closed like other schools and many businesses in BC.
More than five months later, academy staff and faculty are preparing to welcome back students after Labour Day. Each month some 1,100 lessons were offered before the shutdown.
“Lesson plans are being adapted to provide a safe, exciting musical education for students of all ages,” says music director Walter Martella.
Plans have been submitted to WorkSafeBC and all COVID-19 guidelines from BC Centre for Disease Control will be followed.
At a pandemic planning meeting on August 12, staff, faculty and members of the academy board of directors formulated decisions on how to reopen safely and provide a choral experience within COVID confines.
“Our choral programs have been redefined for smaller groups,” explains Martella. “And we will start groups outside in the courtyard.”
He added that physical distancing will be followed, masks are strongly recommended and an academy-branded type of mask is being sourced locally for faculty.
A new focus will include choral study, learning different languages such as German, French and Italian, as choirs do not always sing in English.
“We’ll learn to pronounce the text of a piece before singing it,” says Martella.
Adult music education programs for up to 10 people will be held during the daytime with classes in music theory and appreciation, note reading, listening and ear training.
“Humming will become part of practices as we learn singing in a different way,” adds Martella.
Children’s programs will also include more music education as well as singing.
As there is an expectation that there will be a higher home-schooled population, children’s programming will be offered during the day with class sizes limited to between six and 10 students.
All students will come at their appointed lesson times and leave directly afterward.
“Here at the academy we are fortunate to have direct outside entrances to our studios to limit the number of people in the building,” explains Martella. “All of our windows open to provide good ventilation.”
Cleaners have been contracted for daily service for bathrooms, and faculty members are required to clean their own areas before and after lessons, wiping down instruments and door knobs.
“Parents and adults can be assured that we are doing everything required and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone next month,” says Martella.
Registration opens online September 8 and classes begin September 14.
Laszlo Tamasik Dance Academy also offers lessons in the same building. Owner Paige Anderson says her fall schedule is the same with just as many classes as previously.
“The difference is that we are limiting the number of students per class to 12 instead of the 10 to 20 in the past,” explains Anderson. “Dancers enter through the courtyard and bring all their stuff into the room with them. They will use hand sanitizer and go directly to their spots that are physically distanced with a sticker.”
When dancers leave, they will follow arrows straight down the hallway and out what were emergency doors.
Terry James, a member of the academy board and retired administrator, says these are “very difficult times for the academy with major fundraising events like [International Choral] Kathaumixw postponed for a year and Carols By Candlelight likely to be cancelled. It’s going to be tough to think of ways to raise money but we’re not alone.”
James added that the board is fortunate to be in control of their own building, a position some music academies are not in and have to depend on their landlords.
James also commended academy staff members.
“They have been really good and working hard in preparing for the reopening,” she says. “We’re all feeling very positive.”
For more information, go to powellriveracademy.org or call 604.485.9633.