The commercial music program reels from pandemic stress

Students work to restructure the music community on campus after being gone for over a year.

Student+music+majors+practice+outside+of+the+Biola+Worship+Building.+

Courtesy of Hope Langston

Student music majors practice outside of the Biola Worship Building.

Chris Charpentier, Staff Writer

Inside the small commercial music building below the library, a thriving community of songwriters and singers are returning to their art. The return has not come without challenges and setbacks, including canceled concerts and Zoom classes. Students and faculty offered their own perspectives on what it means to create, both during and after the pandemic. 

DIRECTING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC

Due to the pandemic, many of the worship and pop ensembles within the program created their music remotely.

“During the last fall and spring semester, the students recorded on their own at home, sent it in, and then we all mixed,” said commercial music area coordinator Jeff Askew. “Students were rehearsing via Zoom, talking about their arrangements and mapping out their songs together.”

Despite this fix for online learning, the process took a toll on students and made the creative process much harder.

“Being remote, it’s really hard to do arts in general,” Askew said. “This year, we’re kind of up and running, but we’re challenged because we don’t have optimal use of the music building because of spacing and distancing.”

Because of the COVID-19 protocols on campus, putting the students into ensembles into small classrooms in the commercial and worship arts music building proves challenging. One COVID-19 case can cause problems for those entire rehearsal groups. 

Despite these setbacks, there will be concerts featuring commercial music students by the Fireside Pavilion every Thursday evening starting on Oct. 28. Each concert will feature many solo artists as well as the five worship and pop ensembles in the program.

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE

While the school had trouble putting on events for the student body, commercial music students used the time to reflect on themselves and find inspiration for their future releases. Junior music major Hope Langston commented on how the isolation helped her to find her vulnerability.

“I think the pandemic definitely left space for me to learn to be more vulnerable through my music,” Langston said. “With isolation, you can’t help but face some of the dark thoughts that you might not have had to face before.”

Langston commented on a common trend of isolation within the whole student body during the pandemic, one that commercial music students especially utilized. Senior music major Mehki Key used this time of reflection as well to work through his own struggles and life experiences.

“It’s all about perspective,” Key said. “The pandemic was an opportunity for me to slow down and just be OK with what the Lord was doing inside of me and transforming my life.”

The transformation occurred both personally and creatively for junior music major Conner Martin. He found that deleting social media helped him lean into his own creativity.

“I actually deleted all my social media over the pandemic,” Martin said. “I’ve just been honing my craft and learning how to write really good lyrics, how to be poetic, and how to speak to people through my music.”

POST-PANDEMIC PLANS

The pandemic was a dark time for many students here on campus, whether it be the multiple classes on Zoom or being isolated from the other students in their program. Fortunately, these students have found inspiration within that isolation and are planning to release new music in the near future.

Martin and Langston are working on their own EPs that will be released sometime in spring of next year, while Key plans to release his new single “Want You” on Nov. 7.

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