“Where words fail, music speaks.”
— Author Hans Christian Andersen
Throughout this past winter while the coronavirus pandemic hung over the world, high school student-athletes across Massachusetts competed.
The rules had to be changed. For one thing, masks were a must. And in basketball, for instance, jump balls were eliminated, halftimes were shortened and the team bench was spread out to the size of a large classroom.
Still, student-athletes in such high-profile sports as basketball and hockey got to compete. They practiced indoors, played indoors. There was body-to-body contact, as always.
Though some games had to be postponed or canceled due to contact tracing issues, there were no athlete-to-athlete transmissions reported locally and very few across the state.
The winter season could be considered a big success. And the kids got to do what they loved.
Until very recently, the rules were different for music students Massachusetts. Vocal performers were forced to rehearse outside in the often bitter conditions of a New England winter.
Performing before a live audience? No chance.
The kids were denied the opportunity to do what they loved.
It simply wasn’t fair, or necessary.
We applaud state education officials who recognized this and revised the rules. Under the state’s new indoor vocal guidelines approved earlier this month, students are encouraged to wear well-fitting masks, sing at lower volume, limit rehearsals to 30 minutes and utilize larger, better-ventilated spaces.
“We’re really excited we’re going to have students singing back indoors,” Foxboro School Superintendent Amy Berdos said.
The revisions came at least in part from the efforts of parents like Erin Earnst, vice president of the Foxboro Music Association. She told members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that performing arts programs had been treated differently than sports.
“It’s time to level the playing field and apply the research and established policy equitably,” Earnst testified at a Feb. 23 hearing.
There are still accommodations to be made. Under the guidelines, there must be three feet of separation for instruction but 10 feet for music practice and performing. Students have been using microphone packs that allow them to sing at a lower volume but still be heard.
At Attleboro High School, for instance, the revisions mean the marching band can perform at home football games, restoring some normalcy to that gridiron tradition. The jazz band will be able to meet for rehearsals, Principal Bill Runey said, and the school is now considering an outdoor spring concert with social distancing — if allowed by city and state authorities.
“Music is being made,” North Attleboro High School band director Thomas Rizzo said. “We are making the best of the situation.”
That sounds wonderful — and fair — to us.