Sunderman Conservatory fall planning update

Dear Sunderman Community,

I hope this message finds you well and that you are finding opportunities to enjoy the summer, even amidst the extraordinary circumstances and events that continue to evolve in our communities and the world. As a follow up to previous communications from the College on June 22 and July 7 highlighting the College’s reopening plans for the Fall 2020 semester, I am writing to provide you with information regarding the steps we are taking in the Conservatory to help ensure a safe and meaningful learning environment on campus this fall.

These are extraordinary times for all of us, and realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have had profound impacts on the field of music. Concert seasons have been canceled, performance halls have been closed, and we have been compelled to innovate new ways to interact and inspire musically. We have all now experienced virtual lessons, ensembles, recitals, social events, and classes through a variety of platforms and applications. These experiences constantly remind us that being together, and more specifically practicing and performing music in close proximity with one another, poses unique risks for transmitting the novel coronavirus. Therefore, it is clear that a return to residence will require us—the Conservatory community—to take careful, well-informed steps to reimagine the ways we will interact this semester.

First, the faculty and administration of the College and Conservatory are committed to maintaining the integrity of our programs. Performance is a cornerstone of the Sunderman experience, and yet these activities also pose some of the greatest challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, we are collaborating closely with Keeling & Associates—the College’s planning and health consultants—to establish modifications, policies, and procedures that will help mitigate the health risks associated with these activities while still supporting our students’ artistic growth and development.

Given current knowledge of patterns of transmission of the virus, we are taking a number of important steps, including practices standard across campus as well as additional measures necessary for Conservatory interactions.

Masks and Physical Distancing

Every student and employee will be required to wear a mask or face covering on campus when they are in campus buildings, including Conservatory spaces, or within six feet of another person (see https://www.gettysburg.edu/opening/health-wellness/). While it is feasible for many instrumentalists to comply and wear a mask while playing, wind players and vocalists obviously require special consideration. We are working now to establish a set of guidelines that may allow wind players and solo vocalists to lower their mask to practice and perform in specific settings and circumstances, such as in practice spaces and rehearsal settings that allow for appropriate spacing and density. We are working closely with Keeling & Associates to outline parameters for these exceptions that keep students, faculty and staff safe, and ensure compliance with state and federal requirements.

In addition:

  • Recitals will take place, but with an emphasis on small audiences, a minimum number of performers appropriately spaced, and the use of livestreaming technology to allow the performances to be accessible to broader audiences.
  • We are taking steps to move lessons to larger spaces, such as Paul Recital Hall, Majestic Theatre, Christ Chapel, and large classrooms, and allow students and faculty the option to interact remotely when in-person meetings are not feasible.
  • Juries and assessments will likely be held prior to Thanksgiving, to assure students have the opportunity to work with an accompanist as needed.
  • The majority of Conservatory courses will be held in-person, with modifications to ensure for appropriate distancing and mask wearing during in-person meetings and to accommodate students unable to attend in person. A few courses will be offered exclusively online – including one section of Theory I lecture and Counterpoint and Composition – helping us to prioritize spaces for practice and performance while maintaining the highest quality personalized instruction through carefully designed course experiences.
  • Sunderman students who choose not to return to campus this fall will have the opportunity to study completely remotely. We ask that students interested in this option to please reach out to their academic advisor and the Conservatory director (jday@gettysburg.edu) as soon as possible so that we can work with you to determine appropriate courses and accommodations for the fall semester.
  • Auditions for prospective students will be held virtually this year, allowing us to prioritize spaces for current students.
  • Participation in both large and small ensembles are an essential part of our program and integral to our students’ maturation as collaborative musicians. Current research indicates we are safer together when we work in smaller numbers, for shorter periods of time, and in proportionately larger spaces. As a result, our ensemble directors are working together to establish modified plans for each ensemble that take these parameters into account while developing collaborative projects that will continue to provide students with exciting, innovative learning experiences. Updates will be provided in our next Conservatory communication, which we plan to issue the week of July 27-31.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

As stated by the College, Facilities Services have been trained in, and will continue to monitor, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH) cleaning guidelines. They will prioritize cleaning frequent-use and high-touch areas. Community members will be responsible for regularly cleaning their own spaces. With this in mind, we are working with Keeling & Associates to establish protocols for practice room use, scheduling, and cleaning. We are also taking steps to virtualize components of our computer lab—putting essential, specialized music software in the hands of our students, and minimizing risk of transmission through shared computers.

New research is emerging on a daily basis and we acknowledge that COVID-19 presents many unknown factors as we look ahead. The College and Conservatory, while committed to opening and remaining residential for the fall, may need to adjust to changing conditions. We thank you for your patience and understanding as our plans continue to be developed with these potential scenarios in mind. If you have questions about any of the items specific to the Conservatory covered in this email, you can email conservatoryreturn@gettysburg.edu. More general inquiries may be directed to fallreturn@gettysburg.edu.

To ensure you are fully informed, please continue to carefully review the guidelines and information provided on the College’s website: www.gettysburg.edu/opening. As you know firsthand, music has the power to uplift, to unite, and to inspire—and I believe music takes on even greater importance both on our campus and within our society during these uncertain times. I am confident that our Sunderman students will do everything in their control to live up to our shared health and safety pledge this fall, so they may continue to offer their spirit and musical talents to our community in the academic year ahead. The College will issue its next communication on or before July 20. That communication will specifically address information related to course scheduling and Orientation. The Conservatory likewise will provide its next update the week of July 27-31. Until then, stay healthy, practice hard, and enjoy your summer!

With best wishes,

James M. Day, DMA | Director
Gettysburg College | Sunderman Conservatory of Music
300 North Washington Street | Gettysburg, PA 17325
Phone: 717-337-6127 | www.gettysburg.edu
Pronouns: He/him/his