Moorpark College Choral & Vocal Program holds on-campus classes in new location to maintain COVID-19 safety regulations

Kevin+Su+Fukagawa+accompanies+the+class+with+the+piano+in+Moorpark%2C+CA+on+March+8%2C+2021.+Photo+credit%3A+Valeri+Roussak

Kevin Su Fukagawa accompanies the class with the piano in Moorpark, CA on March 8, 2021. Photo credit: Valeri Roussak

By Valeri Roussak

With the pandemic closing down school campuses and making most classes virtual, it is challenging for many students to be able to study and interact with fellow classmates. Certain programs are more difficult online as well. The Moorpark College Choral and Vocal Program has suffered with this drastic change and figured out a way to be able to practice with all members of the class, safely and efficiently.

To be able to practice musical pieces, all vocal classes meet in the bottom level of the parking garage, stand at least six feet apart and wear masks at all times to maintain COVID-19 safety regulations.

Lots of equipment has to be brought down from the choir room to the garage, which takes around an hour to set up.

Student Co-Director of the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, fourth year student Rachel Nelson, explained how the classes were functioning before they were even allowed back on campus.

“Before we even came on campus, we were online on Zoom for a really long time and we all kind of felt defeated,” Nelson shared. “Even when we came back on campus in an outdoor setting, we still had that mentality that we weren’t going to make it work.”

The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble stands socially distanced from each other, while practicing their arrangements in Moorpark, CA on  March 8, 2021.
The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble stands socially distanced from each other, while practicing their arrangements in Moorpark, CA on March 8, 2021. Photo credit: Valeri Roussak

Professor Brandon Elliott, director of the Choral and Vocal Program, stated that each Moorpark College student and faculty member has to go through a COVID-19 screening before being able to stay on campus. This includes taking temperatures, answering screening questions and then getting a wristband to indicate that the person is allowed on campus.

“Some students don’t pass the pre-screening so they have to stay home and view the class through a Zoom call,” Elliott explained.

Many rules are put in place to make it possible for students to practice on campus. Every 30 minutes, a break is required to air out the space and sanitize equipment.

Each singer gets their own microphone to keep for the whole semester, in order to decrease the risk of contamination. Elliott also walks around regularly to sanitize all microphones with a spray.

One of the classes that is part of the program is the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, MUS M34. This is a completely student-led class that is proctored and observed by Elliott.

The class is led by Student Co-Directors Rachel Nelson and Bryce Livingston. Nelson and Livingston are in charge of leading the class, assigning parts and making sure everything is working out well.

Contemporary Vocal Ensemble singers Jocelyne Daugherty, Lily Nolan, and co-director Rachel Nelson practice an arrangement during their break, accompanied by Kevin Su Fukagawa on the piano in Moorpark, CA on March 8, 2021.
Contemporary Vocal Ensemble singers Jocelyne Daugherty, Lily Nolan, and co-director Rachel Nelson practice an arrangement during their break, accompanied by Kevin Su Fukagawa on the piano in Moorpark, CA on March 8, 2021. Photo credit: Valeri Roussak

All musical arrangements are made by every student’s contribution. Students sing modern songs in genres like pop and jazz.

First year student Lily Nolan shared her experience in the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble.

“I really like that we do a cappella and we perform songs that most people know,” Nolan expressed.

Nolan also shared how she felt about practicing during the pandemic with safety regulations and changes.

“It’s definitely very challenging because it is hard to hear people with masks, which microphones help with a little bit, but we are still adjusting and I am glad that we have a way to practice our songs,” Nolan stated.

The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble is the only class that competes in yearly competitions, which unfortunately had to be cancelled. The group would be competing in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Instead of competitions, the class posts videos of their song arrangements often online.

To learn more about the Moorpark College Choral and Vocal Program and the different classes available, visit their website.