UNC Ensembles Cope With COVID

Nick Trask, second from left, plays tenor drums for UNC’s Pride of the Rockies marching band. His senior season was canceled because of fears surrounding COVID-19. Image courtesy Pride of the Rockies.

Fourth year percussion major Bryce Baturevich can make music out of almost anything. While he’s played drums, cymbals and chimes, Baturveich’s first love is the marimba, but he’s also played bells, wine bottles, flowerpots and other out of the box instruments.

“That’s the beauty of percussion, though. Anything can become an instrument if you really try,” Batruevich said.

Baturevich helps his passion blossom in the University of Northern Colorado’s percussion ensemble. It’s a small group of equally enthusiastic rhythm nerds who play various compositions under the direction of UNC professor Julie Strom in concerts throughout the year. But in March of 2020, just as Batruevich was preparing his important junior capstone recital, the pandemic closed the world. The practice rooms and instrument closets vital to Batruevich’s future success didn’t escape those closures.

“It was hard to practice because it’s impossible to afford a marimba. It was harder still because my lessons would have to be cancelled,” Batruevich said.

Luckily, Baturevich was able to get special permission from the school of music to bring his instrument home and practiced throughout the pandemic. In August, music students were granted permission to come back and practice at the university. They could work on their own time in practice rooms or in their respective ensembles, so long as members were socially distanced and small in numbers. Concerts and recitals were performed via livestream to the UNC college of Visual and Performing arts YouTube channel, so family, friends and community members could continue to enjoy live music.


The pandemic, however, got worse before it could get better. In early January, the UNC school of music announced that ensembles could not meet at all until risk levels lowered.

“I was heartbroken all over again,” Baturevich said. “It was frustrating that not everyone was staying safe.”

When Colorado’s health department risk levels moved from orange to yellow on Feb. 6, 2021, small ensembles were granted permission to meet once again. As long as masks were worn, students were socially distanced, and instruments were properly sanitized, groups like Baturevich’s percussion ensemble could practice.

Some students wish they could be so lucky to experience the ups and downs of COVID-19 on their ensembles.

Nick Trask is a fourth-year journalism student with a passion for percussion. Trask has been a part of marching band every year since his freshman year of high school. He’s a proud member of UNC’s Pride of the Rockies marching band, and you can see him playing his tenor drums in the cover photo of the Pride of the Rockies Facebook page.

“I love the comradery of marching band. That’s what it was all about for me,” Trask said.

In summer of 2020, just as he was gearing up for his senior season as a tenor drummer to start, the rug was swept out from under his feet. In a post made to the ensemble’s Facebook page from Aug. 13 of 2020, directors announced the cancellation of the fall season and the band’s annual summer camp. Trask said that he felt as if the school of music didn’t believe marching band was worth it if there was no football.

“It was all bad. But it really sucked that we couldn’t do band camp this year. They have all these rituals for the seniors that I never even got to participate in,” Trask said.

If you would like to support the school of music through the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can visit the UNC college of Performing and Visual Arts on YouTube to watch concerts, recitals and other performances from the hard-working students at the UNC school of music.


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