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PYO Music Institute Student Musician Ensembles Return To In-Person Rehearsals

Several new health and safety precautions were implemented, including the installation of multiple HEPA-rated air purification units.

PYO Music Institute Student Musician Ensembles Return To In-Person Rehearsals

After extensive research and rigorous attention to detail following CDC Guidelines, the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Music Institute COVID-19 Response Committee determined best practices for a return to in-person activities for the music ensembles of the Institute.

After months of preparing to welcome students back safely to the rehearsal hall in St. Patrick's Hall at 20th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia, the first ensemble to successfully return to in-person rehearsals was their most advanced orchestra, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) conducted by Maestro Louis Scaglione, President and Music Director of PYO Music Institute. PYO includes 100 gifted instrumentalists who range in age from 15 to 21.

Following PYO were the two other student orchestras, Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra (PYAO) for 13 to 18 year old students led by Director and Conductor Maestra Rosalind Erwin and Young Musicians Debut Orchestra (YMDO) directed by Maestro Kenneth Bean, which is a beginning to intermediate-level full orchestra for 11 to 17 year old musicians.

In addition, PYO Music Institute's Bravo Brass returned to rehearsal, directed by Curtis Institute of Music Dean, Paul Bryan, which is an all-brass ensemble for promising middle and high-school instrumentalists.

Prysm Strings and Prysm Strings Young Artists ensembles, for ages 6 to 14, was the last group to return. The director and conductor of Prysm Strings is Gloria DePasquale, cellist with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and conductor of Prysm Strings Young Artists is Andrea Weber. They return to a new rehearsal hall - Settlement Music School Wynnefield Branch, located in West Philadelphia. Their prior location was in Bryn Mawr PA, and not only is this music center an ideal space for rehearsals, it offers greater accessibility to students throughout the region, being more centrally located in the City of Philadelphia.

Maestro Scaglione is relieved to be able to provide in-person instruction to students now, after the unexpected quarantine caused by the pandemic. He said, "I am so appreciative of our directors and the 71 members of our faculty who have created outstanding educational experiences for our students in this new virtual universe. The results were very impressive through rehearsals and performances and, once again, we were able to bring great joy to audiences through streaming capabilities. I will admit, I am relieved to be in the rehearsal hall with our students and see their great appreciation of playing side-by-side, albeit with distances and many safety protocols in place."

To prepare for the safe return to in-person rehearsals, significant investment was made in ventilation and personal protective equipment. This is thanks to a generous $25,000 Capital Support grant from the Presser Foundation. This year, the Foundation extended its grant guidelines to "provide for equipment and supply needs of organizations as they continue to respond to the pandemic with innovative, uplifting and inspiring music programming." Several new health and safety precautions were implemented, including the installation of multiple HEPA-rated air purification units, iWave-R Bi-Polar ionization air filtration devices and upgraded MERV-rated air filters installed in the rehearsal hall heating system; a new electrostatic sprayer and EPA-rated Virucide to disinfect surfaces between rehearsals; special instrument-specific PPE for woodwinds and brass from Torpedo Bags; plexiglass shields around each woodwind and brass musician; pre-rehearsal health screening requirement for all students; modified rehearsal schedules; and additional space for family members to wait away from students during rehearsals.

Students who have not yet returned to the in-person rehearsals have been able to participate from their homes virtually, as rehearsals are livestreamed using new audio and video broadcasting equipment. This has allowed PYO Music Institute to continue including all members of their ensembles in a true "hybrid model."

Looking back on the virtual instruction provided by PYO Music Institute during the pandemic during the past, the numbers of experiences provided by faculty members is enlightening to review:

• 3,171 Total Hours of Virtual Instruction, and Counting
• 1,432 Zoom Ensemble Rehearsals and Sectionals
• 25 Virtual Performance Videos Recorded

For more information about PYO Music Institute including online auditions, upcoming virtual programs and gala, please visit www.pyomusic.org.


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