After 20 months of being limited to online performances, Weston’s music program was able to hold its first in-person concert earlier this year outside, but due to the cold weather and the need to move future concerts indoors, the town Board of Health and school district administration have set audience guidelines for upcoming concerts.
Some of these rules include a limit of two audience members per student who is performing. Those audience members must be vaccinated or have a negative Covid test within three days of the event. To prevent the spread of the virus, those who attend are expected to keep at least one seat distant from other spectators who are not part of the same group, and cannot eat or drink inside. A form was emailed to parents of performers as well, to indicate who will attend from each household.
“Families will enter the names of up to two guests who will be attending” on this form, a letter from the Weston Public Schools Administration stated.
Whether these restrictions are too harsh or not, if they allow concerts to move off the Zoom platform, many will agree with freshman Claire Kakabeeke that “In person concerts are so much better because you get to sing with your group and you are actually performing. It’s a real concert.”
Although the annual Chorus Masquerade Concert was held outside, that is expected to be the only outdoor concert this year. The winter and first indoor chorus concert was held on December 1, following the latest guidelines to limit audience size in the high school auditorium. Audience members were allowed to choose their own seats after checking in at the entrance of the school. Performers and audience members followed the current masking guidelines to ensure safety indoors.
As the Board of Health and district administration considers revising the mask requirement in the high school, the audience restrictions and mask mandate may not change immediately for concerts.
“Guidance may be staggered when unmasking becomes an option,” director of health services, Jamy Gaynor stated, and also explained that the rules for masks may not be the same for students in school as for persons in or at these concerts. “Unmasking indoors while in classrooms and hallways may become an option but unmasking may remain restricted in some capacity for higher risk activities” such as concerts.
Gaynor could not provide an exact timeframe for when these restrictions will no longer be in place. The school is currently trying to do its best to prevent the spread of Covid, so the safety of everyone attending school events is a priority. However, if 65% of high school students and faculty are tested weekly and the district meets other requirements, students and faculty who are vaccinated could be in school without masks. If this happens, then mask wearing for higher risk activities may be reconsidered.
“If everyone continued to get Covid tested weekly, I feel like it would be very safe,” said senior and chorus ensemble manager, Siobhan Lacey.
Many believe that concerts should be mask optional for performers if masks are no longer required to be worn during the school day. However, there are many factors that go into giving students that option due to its higher risk.
The changing of these restrictions will be “based upon vaccination rates, incidence rates, and transmissibility within a community,” Gaynor stated.
The outdoor Chorus Masquerade Concert was held on October 21 at the Field School amphitheater. Risers were set up in the center of the “stage” area for singers, with the audience sitting around them on folding chairs and the ascending stone benches.
“It was wonderful to have an audience again and applause, and be able to celebrate the successes of our students,” director of music, Christopher Memoli said.
Weston High School had its first band and orchestra concerts on October 27 and 28 indoors. With these restrictions in place, Weston Public Schools are slowly taking the steps needed to return to normalcy.