Concerned parents and advocates say bring back the school band
Published Monday, March 1, 2021 7:46PM CST Last Updated Tuesday, March 2, 2021 7:01AM CST
Source: Scott Anderson
WINNIPEG -- The ban on playing wind instruments in school bands has left some kids hitting the drums, or nothing at all, as COVID-19 measures continue to make music classes a challenge for teachers.
In response a group of concerned parents is rallying to bring band class back to schools, wind instruments included, saying small groups should be allowed now.
“We can do it safely. We’ve toed the line, we’ve been very good for the last year. The kids have not played for a year and they miss it. There’s still a lot of parents paying for musical instruments,” said parent Melissa Davidson, who has two teenagers in band.
Davidson said since her kids haven’t be able to practice with a full quartet, their motivation to play is gone.
That has her concerned about the mental health of all students and the long-term impact of not being able to play together.
“It’s one ingredient of a bigger recipe, so you can do some scales, but you really can’t be part of that creative process by yourself,” Davidson said.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said when it comes to the resumption of band practices, public health orders don’t apply to schools in the same way, but they are part of a system that relies on public health advice.
"We know that certainly things like wind instruments, singing and things can increase risk of transmission. So we're working with this real cautious approach to try to ensure we can keep kids in school, to continue to open things up and as our numbers continue to decline that we'll be able to do more and more of this,” Roussin said.
However, executive director of the Manitoba Band Association, Chelsey Hiebert, said students would continue to wear masks, remain physically distanced and use bell covers over the end of instruments.
“There’s now extensive research that wasn’t available at the beginning of the shut down that shows there’s mitigations that can be put in place that can almost eliminate the risk od aerosol exchange in wind playing” Hiebert said.
Hiebert added that the ongoing restrictions on music programs impact more than just musical skill.
“For a lot of these students and a lot of these children, as parents are noticing first hand, they’ve lost their entire social network. They’ve lost a way into which they participate with their peers and a way to just decompress and relax from other activities,” Hiebert said.
Ross Brownlee, a music teacher at Westgate Mennonite Collegiate, said the absent sound of the wind and brass instruments can be deafening.
“The wind and brass instruments, they have shape, they have melody, they’re pitched instruments. A bucket, well you can get four sounds out of a bucket,” Brownlee said.
In a statement to CTV News Education Minister Cliff Cullen said: “We know students have missed out learning and performing music which is an important part of education and well-being. We are currently consulting teachers and public health on this issue. We ask for the continued patience of students, teachers, and parents as we fight through this pandemic.”