Student musicians, music educators frustrated over state restrictions

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As student athletes across the state return to the practice fields, student musicians are still forced to remain on the sidelines.

Katie Divett, drum major and senior at Sandia High School, said music activities have been part of her life for years.

“I’ve been doing bands since I was in sixth grade, so middle school. I’ve done marching band, symphonic band and jazz,” she said.

Like student athletes, student musicians also receive opportunities through their activities.

“Sports aren’t the only ones with important scholarships this year. We have marching band scholarships, too,” Divett said.

Students, parents, and music educators said it’s frustrating to see athletes play while the push to play music has fallen flat.

“Very few sports have social distancing built into them,” said Lisa Gunderson, a band parent. “Spring is coming to New Mexico, every school has huge fields that these kids can be so far apart.”

“Nothing against our athletes, but if we can all agree that we can have football players on the field in close contact with each other, and we can certainly agree to have band kids or choir kids or orchestra kids spread out outside, socially distance with all the safety protocols in place so that we can be safe,” said JP Bowdoin, a band parent.

Music educators have highlighted a study that was conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Maryland.

“They looked at every single instrument, the voice, the spoken word, students who were doing aerobic exercise. They looked at all of these things to look at aerosol spray, because we know that COVID is spread through aerosol,” said Neal Swapp, executive director of the New Mexico Music Educators Association.

“They found that by wearing a mask on the face with a slit for the instrument to go through and a bell cover with Merv 13 fabric that the aerosol spread is virtually none,” he added.

Unlike sports, Swapp said music activities are part of students’ curriculum.

“Music is not extracurricular. We are co-curricular class. We are in the curriculum, so basically, the PED by, through the guidance of the DOH, has denied students’ curriculum—not just an extracurricular activity, but actual curriculum,” Swapp said.

KOB 4 reached out to the state and received a statement that read in part, “The PED declined to offer a statement on the currently guidelines because new guidelines will be forthcoming in the very near future.”

As COVID cases continue to decline, band lovers are hopeful.

“I’ve watched my students struggle immensely with school. Band is the reason that he goes to school. There is no other reason,” said Caddie Cadwell, a band parent.

It’s the same arguments that student athletes used at school board meetings and protests.

“This is a statewide issue, and they’re not able to participate in the activities that support their physical and mental well-being, they’re not able to apply for scholarships,” Cadwell said.

Some local universities like UNM are conducting scholarship interviews through Zoom. Divett said she was recently awarded one of those scholarships.

“I plan to be a doctor of infectious disease and band can help me do that with a lot of their scholarships, and I also plan on being part of their jazz band,” she said.

Until then, they hope to march forward together one last time.