Published March 24, 2021


LYNNFIELD — The Lynnfield High School band program is keeping a steady beat despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While the pandemic forced the band program to switch things up this year, LHS Band Director Harry Wagg and his students have found their rhythm and are still holding down the groove.

“As with most things, a lot of our rehearsing has been done remotely,” said Wagg. “This is especially true of wind instruments and singing, which were not able to participate in-person until fairly recently. However, instruments like guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and mallet instruments have been able to rehearse in-person when possible. Our smaller jazz and rock ensembles have been the least affected, aside from being split into two cohorts.”

Wagg said the high school’s band classes are “structured a bit differently” with half of the class learning in-person and the other half learning at home on Zoom.

LYNNFIELD HIGH GUITAR ESSEMBLE students, from left, Shane McQueen, Adam Ho, Charles Beatrice and Daniel McSweeney have been masking up while rocking out. (Courtesy Photo)

“We needed to incorporate some new curriculum that would connect both groups,” said Wagg. “A lot of this involved music theory, composition and music production work as well as some history. I hope that these elements will continue to be an integral part of the curriculum moving forward, as their inclusion definitely helps create well-rounded musicians.”

Wagg said students playing in the band program have responded to the challenges brought on by the pandemic “incredibly well.”

“They have faced new challenges with technology, material and rehearsal techniques without flinching,” said Wagg. “I’ve also been incredibly impressed that so many students have used their time outside of the building to dive deeper into their own musical interests. The pursuit of their musical passions strengthens their performance inside the classroom, but also informs my teaching in ways that allow it to connect to their music. This is their program, not mine.”

When asked what does Wagg hope students will get out of music during these challenging times, he said: “Joy, familiarity and an outlet for their emotions.”

“But more importantly, I believe that participation in music is what prepares individuals for situations like this,” Wagg continued. “In music, students learn how to improvise, be flexible, take on new challenges and adapt to unexpected circumstances. They also learn how to lead, collaborate and innovate. I’m fully confident that our student-musicians are not only able to face difficult circumstances, but support others through them as well as innovate solutions to them.”

Wagg noted that the Music Department hosted virtual concerts this year since in-person concerts were not allowed.

“These are comprised of video clips edited together of students performing parts of songs either in school when possible or submitted from home,” said Wagg. “Though the students lose the interaction that happens with traditional performances, having to record parts in isolation strengthens a new skillset based on confidence and independence.”

In addition to the virtual concerts, Wagg said Lynnfield High launched a virtual coffeehouse series in order to give student musicians the opportunity to rock out.

“The virtual coffeehouses have been wonderful,” said Wagg. “It was definitely a bit of a learning curve, which we wouldn’t have been able to get over without the help of Bob and Ariel Priestley, who helped stream everything. We really just wanted to create an opportunity for our musicians to perform live. Although there wasn’t a live audience in the room, they were still able to create and perform in a more traditional sense than the virtual concerts allow.”

Wagg said senior Aidan Briggs, who is a member of the Tri-M Music Honors Society, worked with other members of the society in order to host a virtual open house for Lynnfield Middle School student-musicians.

“We rarely get the opportunity to interact with LMS musicians,” said Wagg. “With everyone’s new found Zoom skills, we thought that platform might provide a way to connect with LMS students to give them a glimpse at how the Music Department at LHS works. Aidan Briggs along with members of our Tri-M Music Honor Society took the lead on these open houses and did a wonderful job. Keeping students involved in music through middle school is always a challenge, and the jump to high school is sort of the last hurdle in retention. We really want to try and encourage as many student musicians to stay involved as is possible.”

Wagg said the band program is hoping to host one in-person concert before the end of the academic year once full-time in-person learning begins on Monday, April 5.

“We’re going to rehearse some of the songs we’ve been working on in larger groups in the hope that we can put on a concert in front of a live audience before year’s end,” said Wagg. “We are also looking to fully enjoy the camaraderie that is such a big part of the music program at Lynnfield High School.”