Regina Dominican Music Department: Playing Music Together Again


K. Houston

The Regina Dominican Orchestra practicing outside early in the morning. Wilmette, Illinois.

Kathryn McDarrah, Staff Reporter

Things look a lot different around the Music Department of Regina Dominican High School. According to the CDC, singing and the playing of woodwind instruments has been deemed a “super-spreader” activity. Actions like these create a much higher risk of water droplets flying from the mouth and into the air, for other people to breathe in. After a choir practice in Washington left multiple people infected with COVID-19, the CDC has released guidelines to help students and teachers safely practice with their orchestra and choir.

With classes back in session at Regina Dominican came a dilemma for Mr. Noah Pligge, the Music Director. “Since we are unable to have large group sessions for orchestra and chorale, we’ve had to focus more on the individual playing of each student,” says Pligge, who is in his third year of teaching at Regina Dominican. 

The students are focusing more on their own technique and playing, while at home and at school. “It is a little frustrating but we’ve been learning more about music theory which I like,” said senior Grace McAullife, a member of the Regina Dominican Chorale.

Every morning when Orchestra students arrive at 7:00 am, they have their temperature taken and have to answer a questionnaire. Then, they go outside to play their instruments. There are roughly fifteen students in the Regina Dominican Orchestra. Each student has their own instrument and supplies, and special masks have to be worn by wind instrument players, as well as special covers for the end of the instrument to decrease the amount of aerosol entering the air.

Percussionists have their own drumsticks and stand so there is no chance of cross-contamination between students. Guitar students each have their own guitar and sit in desks that are spaced out six feet apart, with a taped square on the floor that only the student can come inside of.

Mr. Pligge has also implemented the use of a new online program called Sight Reading Factory to aid in the student’s playing. Though students are not allowed to sing or have large group performances, they are allowed to play in small group sectionals while spaced six feet apart and all wearing masks. F

lute players get a special face shield that blocks water droplets from the mouth. Each student gets their own sheet music, and are responsible for sanitizing their instruments and other supplies.

The Regina Dominican Chorale has probably seen the most change since students have only sung together a couple of times. They have turned their focus on working on their individual voices, by working at home and filming themselves singing. The Chorale has exactly seven students. Each girl has been given a song to learn and record themselves daily singing it at home. They have been allowed to sing together a few times, and have been following special guidelines implemented by their director. The girls could sing together outside while holding their masks tightly to their faces, all facing in different directions, spaced out six feet apart.

There have been no plans made yet for in-person orchestra and chorale performances, but online Zoom performances have been discussed. The orchestra performed a show while in quarantine last school year, and it was very fun for all the girls to play together for the first time in a while, even if it was online.

Most of the students are enjoying being back at school, especially the Orchestra and Chorale students. Students are excited to see what this new school year, during a global pandemic, will bring. They are so excited to see the Orchestra and Chorale perform once again!