The Santa Ynez Valley Wind Ensemble was overwhelmingly pleased to play for its community for the 4th of July festivities in Solvang, California. This 2021 concert came after a pandemic lockdown lasted over one year and all rehearsals and public concerts had ceased. As the nation not only celebrates its independence but the ending of the pandemic’s effects, the wind ensemble celebrated its return to its mission: to provide free community music for the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley!
Piccolo plays patriotic Sousa's Stars and Stripes
The lovely weather and the re-opening after the pandemic created a wonderful environment for the music group to perform. A wind ensemble’s flutist said, “It was so fun to perform in the park again!” and a clarinetist replied, “It was wonderful to play live music again!”
One spectator who has been listening to the wind ensemble for twenty years said, “This is the best (the group has) sounded on the 4th of July!”
Board President David Pedersen said, “There were a lot of compliments from the crowd, including from the Rotarians. Solvang Rotary really appreciates our addition to the celebration. Maestra Sharon Jeskey put together a well-balanced band. Our group totaled about 29, which I think is a record in recent times for a gazebo concert. It was fulfilling to finally play for an audience again.”
2020 Spring Concert Postponed
Thursday, March 12, 2020, was the music group’s last rehearsal. It was an apprehensive rehearsal, but the group was determined to move forward with its Sunday, March 15th concert even amidst continued alarming COVID-19 news. The concert would have highlighted pieces like the Walt Disney Overture, Shattering Infinity, Encore Blues, and even a flute concerto “Rhapsody for Flute” which was to spotlight one of conductor Sharon Jeskey’s high school flute players.
However, as the pandemic news intensified, the community musical group decided to cancel their Spring concert at Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang as the church itself was closing the building due to COVID-19 concerns. Soon afterwards, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19, 2020.
2021 Virtual Rehearsals
Because the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School band room, the group’s regular rehearsal location, remained closed, there were not many options for rehearsals. However, on March 18, 2021, conductor Sharon Jeskey commenced with virtual rehearsals, almost a whole year after the previously scheduled March 2020 spring concert. As a music director for San Luis Obispo High School, she conducted numerous virtual rehearsals with her students. But how many of the wind ensemble members would actually join a Zoom rehearsal?
Eighteen people attended the very first virtual rehearsal. Jeskey emailed a few public domain music pieces to the members. During the rehearsal, the music group would first watch a YouTube video together for each song being performed on YouTube so the members could become familiar with the tune. Then, each member would “put themselves on mute” and perform the song as Jeskey virtually conducted while also playing the YouTube version again as background music.
Board President David Pedersen stated after the first Zoom rehearsal, “We had a good initial Zoom gathering Thursday night. We did get through the five pieces and had time to catch up with each other.”
These virtual rehearsals revealed many challenges. An expected challenge was that the group’s “chops” were rusty and needed to be built back up. But learning how to turn on the Zoom video by using their device’s camera and muting themselves also became new but fun challenges. The group would often say, “Please put yourself on mute”, “I can’t hear you because you’re on mute”, “I don’t know how to turn on my camera” and many similar phrases. And yet these challenges could not prevent the group from rehearsing and making music together.
Virtual rehearsals continued. But what would be next for the music group? When would they rehearse in-person again? Would the members feel comfortable with in-person rehearsals? What about social distancing and masks? Where would the group rehearse as the high school, their regular rehearsal spot, was still closed?
We’re Putting the Band Back Together!
As Santa Barbara County moved into the COVID-19 orange tier and vaccinations were becoming available, it was time to ask the question: is it safe to have in-person rehearsals? The wind ensemble reviewed other local music groups’ safe rehearsal protocol. After some analysis of standard procedures, the next question was location since the high school band room was still not available. Fortunately, Bethania Lutheran Church in Solvang was willing to allow rehearsals in its outdoor courtyard as long as the group followed safe standards and protocols.
Thursday, April 29, 2021, began the first hybrid rehearsal with approximately ten people rehearsing at the church and with a few people still joining virtually. It was wonderful to be together again and do what the group does best, making music! Wow, live music!
Wind Ensemble’s Pedersen said of the first in-person rehearsal, “Last night’s rehearsal was a good start on getting back to playing as an ensemble.
Pedersen communicated to the group, “I hear the City of Solvang is planning on a July Fourth celebration along the lines of pre-COVID19 times. Stay tuned – we may be able to play prior to the parade, as in years past.”
While the group was beginning to rehearse in-person, the next group of questions were swirling through each of the members’ minds: when would be our first performance? Could we play our patriotic medley for 4th of July?
Strike Up the Band!
The answers to those questions were a resounding YES! Yes, Solvang was moving forward with its regular 4th of July festivities which included its parade. Yes, the Rotary Club would like the Santa Ynez Valley Wind Ensemble group to play!
While this was exciting news, now logistics and planning were required. Only about fourteen musicians were rehearsing. Would the group have enough musicians to present a full sound on 4th of the July? There were only a few weeks to prepare!
However, by the last rehearsal, the group was astounded that over twenty-six musicians were ready and prepared for the big event.
By the end of the evening of the last rehearsal on Thursday, July 1st, as the sun was setting and the lights were glowing in the church courtyard, the music group was ready and excited with anticipation to perform in public at last!