TCU marching band marched through the Frog Alley as they made their way to the stadium.
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TCU’s transition to distance learning has created special challenges for the School of Music, especially its percussion program.

Not only have classes been transitioned to an online format, but ensemble rehearsals and senior recitals are being conducted online.

The music school is utilizing Zoom to conduct class, rehearsals, private lessons and recitals.

“Percussion instruments can be quite loud of course, so we have worked hard to avoid overlapping parents using Zoom at home for work, siblings in class, etc.,” said Dr. Brian West, professor of music and coordinator of the TCU percussion studio.

Dr. Brian West. (Photo courtesy of finearts.tcu.edu.)

Multiple people connecting to one source of internet connection can negatively affect students’ internet speed and bandwidth.

On top of connection issues, incorporating instruments into video calls can cause technical difficulties, such as audio distortion.

“Music is very much an in-person discipline,” said Cameron Bright, a senior music education major and media coordinator for the TCU percussion club. “Zoom has an insufficient infrastructure and is not suited for live-music playback.”

Bright said conducting a recital that requires more than one person or instrument is an immense challenge, considering most students do not own the necessary instruments themselves.

Cameron Bright. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Bright.)

“The school of music took an unprecedented step and allowed students to check-out instruments from our percussion inventory,” said West.

West said the school of music has checked out 15 marimbas, a handful of vibraphones, drum sets, steel drums and more since distance learning began.

The lack of instruments caused some recitals to be marked incomplete and moved entirely to next semester, while others have switched to various virtual formats.

“The big difference is that many of the pieces students were originally going to play had to be cut, and what would have been a 60-minute recital lasted 15 minutes,” said Bright.

Seniors Audrey Holden and Aaron Mincey conduct their senior recital via a YouTube live stream. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Bright.)

Recitals are not the only events being canceled. Two percussion ensemble concerts have been canceled as well, one of which featured guest artist Jason Sutter from Cher’s band.

“The students have adapted well, and we are doing the best we can given the circumstances,” said West. “The faculty are very proud of our students for adjusting and making it work.”