This past January, TRYPO was able to host our first concert with an in-person audience for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. While we were very excited to hear our young musicians perform together again, it was just as powerful to hear how meaningful the experience was for them after living through these difficult times. Elizabeth Bennett, a flutist in our Young Peoples Orchestra and a member of Youth Chamber Connection, writes about how determined she was to be on stage for the concert despite all the obstacles!:
As a woodwind musician, the COVID-19 pandemic caused major changes to the way I have been able to rehearse, study, and perform. It has been a long journey from the pandemic’s start to now, and it has been a privilege to take that journey with Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras (TRYPO).
I first joined TRYPO in the fall of 2020 as a flute player in their Young Peoples Orchestra. At that point, everything was done via Zoom—auditions, rehearsals, informational meetings, etc. Despite this, I felt involved in my ensemble, and felt a sense of community with the other members, knowing that this mode wasn’t the endgame, but we had to do something to continue making music even when we couldn’t be in person. When we were able to start in-person rehearsals towards the end of the season, I was beyond excited. And, beyond that excitement, I felt safe in the environment TRYPO had created for rehearsal. It was wonderful to play with other musicians and to hear instruments together in one room. Even though the weather prevented our outdoor concert from running in May 2021, TRYPO’s backup plan for us to play all together for a live-streamed concert was a magical experience. And, after all of this, I have a deepened appreciation for being able to play, rehearse, and perform in-person with other musicians.
This year, we were able to return to Duquesne University’s Mary Pappert School of Music for our rehearsals. This meant that there were some changes in protocol, but there has never been a point where I have felt uncomfortable or anxious during rehearsal. I am continually confident in TRYPO’s safety measures and thrilled to be consistently in-person, hearing everyone play together. I’ve made friends and grown as a person and as a musician.
In January 2022, we were scheduled to perform our Brand New Day concert. However, in the weeks leading up to it, I watched nervously as cases increased with the Omicron variant, hoping every week that it would still be safe to rehearse and being relieved every time I didn’t get an email about cancellations. This was to be the first time I would be performing in front of an in-person audience in over two years. My siblings had returned to in-person school, and my parents were both working. I didn’t want to risk COVID exposure so close to the concert, so, ten days before the concert, I began to self-quarantine, avoiding close contact with my family members.
Then, six days before the concert, my younger sister tested positive for COVID, despite all of my family’s precautions; fortunately, I was not in contact because of my isolation strategy. Since my bedroom is at the opposite end of the house from my sister’s, I would be able to stay as far away from her as anyone in the house could. My parents kept her strictly isolated and took care of me in my self-imposed healthy isolation. Now, the only thing I could do was wait.
I took a COVID test before TRYPO’s final pre-concert rehearsal at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, tested negative, and was able to rehearse. The morning of the concert, I tested again before filling out my COVID waiver and was relieved to find the test negative again. This meant that I could perform. However, this was the day of a predicted major snowstorm in the area, and when it started to snow, I was convinced that the universe had decided against our performing this concert. But, as always, the amazing leadership and staff of TRYPO found a way to support all of us to make music together! They pushed through, shifting times, changing the concert order, and trimming the program to give us the best opportunity to play while keeping the safety of TRYPO musicians and their families their priority.
A concert is, under any circumstances, an incredible event. This concert, however, went beyond any experience I’d had before. For two years, I had been performing alone for a computer, or with a group for a computer, but that day—we were performing, in person, for people sitting in chairs in front of us. I could barely believe that I was there—that even as treacherous snowfall loomed, even though the pandemic was (and is) still going on, we were performing an uplifting and strong program.
I am deeply grateful to everyone involved at TRYPO for working so hard and so creatively to make music happen through the pandemic. It is an incredible gift to be able to make music with others. Even beyond that, it is reassuring and heartening to know that organizations like TRYPO are willing to work so hard to persevere and maintain a safe and healthy environment for everyone involved.
– Elizabeth Bennett, YPO and YC² Member
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We are so proud of Elizabeth for sharing her experience with us!
Are you interested in joining TRYPO for the 2022-23 season? Auditions will be held in May 2022 for a fall start. Registration is now open. Click here for all the details!