Arts & Life, Features

Live singing returns to Bob Cole Conservatory of Music

In March of 2020, CSULB voice majors headlined the American Choral Directors Association Conference in Utah, not knowing the world would be sent into a complete standstill and it would be 528 days until they could all sing together again in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What they came to school to do, they could not do,” said Jonathan Talberg, professor of music and director of choral activities. “Even though they were singing, they were singing by themselves in their bedrooms. You don’t go to college to get a music degree like that. For them, it was just terrible. I’ve never had students so happy to be in rehearsal as they are right now.”

If you take a walk by the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, you can hear the sounds of classes being back coming from every angle. Passing by, you hear voices rehearsing music in choir rooms, instruments are being played in the hallways and nearby parking structures. Music is pouring out of every crevice and it feels electric to have campus come alive after being silent for so long.

Jonathan Talberg, director of choral activities
During choir rehearsal, Jonathan Talberg, director of choral activities, sways his arms as a signal towards his students to denote lyrics of a Lithuanian folk song called "Tykus,Tykus," on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

This semester, students who are singing are provided with singer’s masks and are required to wear them when rehearsing and performing. Jazz choir students must use their own microphones. Large group rehearsals are being held in the recital hall with lots of distance between each student.

With 100% of the students in choir, vocal and opera studies being vaccinated, and all precautions being followed, the risk of performing in person and among their peers is relatively low.

“I definitely have much more of an appreciation now, being back is really pushing me to keep going to every one of my classes,” Chester Peres, choral and music education major, said. “I know it is a privilege right now to be able to meet with my peers in person.”

Performing and attending classes during the worst part of the pandemic was extremely difficult for voice majors. Computers lagging out and sound not being great were unavoidable problems students were faced with during Zoom lectures.

“It was a rough semester, I ended up getting COVID and I was sick taking my classes from my laptop,” Brianna Estrada, music education and voice performance major, said. “It was hard not being able to sing with other people because that is the core of what we do and that is what we love to do.”

Despite all the rules to follow and the precautions to take, voice students are still creating an atmosphere of pure excitement.

“The most important thing right now is for us to be together to experience the magic of live creation in time, which is music,” Talberg said. “They say art is how we decorate a wall, music is how we decorate time. I want us to be able to decorate time together.”

CSULB’s University and Chamber Choirs have their first concert on Thursday, Oct. 28, and Friday, Oct. 29 at the Los Altos United Methodist Church. Tickets are available online.

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