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Mix Blog Live: Holding My Breath

With only a few weeks to go in the semester, Steve La Cerra is crossing his fingers that the classrooms at Mercy College stay Covid-free so that students can complete their term projects in the studio.

This morning, I was thinking about how most of my students at Mercy College are doing a pretty darn good job in spite of the pandemic. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, they’re split into small groups, each of which attends class in-person every other week. This keeps the number of people in a studio at or under CDC guidelines.

Keeping track of who is supposed to attend in-person on a given week, whether or not they’re late with an assignment, and simultaneously balancing that with teaching in-class while preparing online content for the “off” weeks has been a full-time task. While I flail away, these youngsters have been managing to keep their noses out of trouble—i.e. staying away from parties and large gatherings where they might risk exposure to the virus.

Several weeks ago, a few of them were exposed to someone (off-campus) who tested positive. Thankfully, none of them tested positive or contracted the virus, but they were quarantined for a period of two weeks prior to being re-tested and allowed to return to campus. More juggling of assignment due dates. Fun!

I’ve been holding my breath while each week of the semester ticks past, especially in light of the fact that (1) several nearby colleges went online-only shortly after the Fall startup due to spikes or downright outbreaks in Covid cases, and (2) cases have generally been on the rise everywhere.

As the semester progresses, we’re doing less and less work on paper, and more and more hands-on in the studio or workshops. College students being college students, some of them are still waiting until the last minute to do proficiency exams or to start term projects(!). Normally, my Audio Systems Design and Installation class works on soldering and/or kit building later in the semester, but I re-sequenced the topics to front-load that portion of the curriculum, thinking we might not make it through the entire semester on-campus. I’m glad I did because at this point, they’ve already completed building microphone kits, so if we do go off-script they won’t lose that experience.

Read more Mix Blog Live: The Weirdest AES Show Ever.

Given the recent increase of Covid cases in the New York area, our administration (like those of other educational institutions in the vicinity) is looking at a multitude of options for finishing the semester. We are now past the halfway point to the finish line. Many students are well into their term recording projects, and it would be a shame if they’re unable to see those through to completion. The administration at Mercy College is aware of the fact that our program has unique requirements, so I’m hopeful that we’ll continue holding classes on-campus.

The idea of teaching my kids how to reamp a guitar track or mike a drum set online is not exactly appetizing, and it’d be a drag for them because they’ve been so excited about being in the studio. Hopefully we can make it just a few more weeks. I’ll continue to hold my breath until the end of the semester.