Stop the music
Pandemic robs local musicians of chance to perform

In a conversation during class about our upcoming holiday concert, College Community Band Director Mark Felder got quite emotional when he found out that he would no longer be able to hold full ensemble concerts.

Mark Felder conducts the Detroit Symphony in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Mark Felder.)

“I had a resignation letter written,” Felder said during class. He was frustrated with campus pandemic restrictions, which mandated only the student members of the band could participate in the concert. 

As his words left his mouth, I could feel the level of tension in the room rise.

“I was not expecting that at all,” said Ronald Dart, a third year student at MCCC and a first year band student, after the tense conversation by Felder during class.

“That was so out of the blue,” said Xander Churchill, a first year student.

The pandemic put a damper on meeting with the entire College Community Band as well as much pressure on Felder. 

For over a year, the band was put on hold. For scholarship students, the opportunity to further our musical abilities at the college level didn’t happen. 

I, along with 13 other students, were deprived of making music and learning alongside professional musicians from our community.

For Felder, this is his 29th year directing at MCCC and he says he misses his full ensemble very much. Felder is putting on “A Student Holiday”, which will be the first concert he is holding since the pandemic put the program on hold.

“Our students do gain so much from being immersed with the community members, many of whom are professional musicians,” Felder said. “However, we are making the best of this pandemic situation.”

In order to be a part of MCCC’s College Community band, each member must go through an audition process that includes a prepared solo, memorized scales, and sight reading.

I prepared for weeks prior to auditioning for this competitive college experience, only to have my audition date pushed back multiple times and then finally deciding to hold it over Zoom.

As the last few days of summer 2020 came to an end, my fellow students and I were excited to continue playing the music, beyond what we had accomplished in high school.

Fiona Vogt, a second year scholarship student at MCCC, graduated from Summerfield Highschool in 2020. He had a very similar reaction as mine when the pandemic kept eating up every ounce of our lives.

“I was so disappointed when it got cancelled because it was just another thing that got canceled in 2020 because of COVID,” Vogt says.

Vogt says her audition experience was a roller coaster of emotions. 

“I was sort of  glad it got postponed so that I could better prepare, but it became more and more stressful the longer I had to wait,” Vogt says.

Each semester, MCCC looked into reestablishing the College Community band but decided that, for the safety of the students and community members, we would not meet with the full group.

This is my second year as a band student but it wasn’t until the 2021 fall semester that we were actually able to meet, with regulations of course.

Currently, 13 other students and I meet every week to collaboratively make music. We maintain our distance and wear masks when we aren’t playing, but the process just isn’t the same.

“The present guidelines at MCCC have negatively affected the Monroe College-Community Band because we haven’t gotten to meet since March of 2020,” said Felder.

When Felder mentioned retiring, it was so hard to hear and so disheartening. One of my college dreams was to play music at this level. 

In high school, I learned about Felder’s group at MCCC, his musical background, and his profession on the instrument I play, which made me completely inspired.

This was a dream come true, until it wasn’t.