How the pandemic hit performing arts at JCU


Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

This semester, university extracurriculars have been hit hard. Many students and faculty worry that John Carroll University’s dozens of performing arts classes and extracurriculars will be stifled by COVID-19.

Some students feel the performing arts are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Not just at JCU, but everywhere, arts are being neglected,” said Annabel McQuillan ’23, a member of the JCU band. “My siblings are in high school, and I have watched first-hand how the arts program at my high school [was] pushed aside. The parents and staff had to fight the school district to even be able to hold rehearsals. The arts are normally overlooked as it is.”

According to Shannon Callaghan ‘22, “Performing arts groups are struggling right now — so much of it involves creating stories or music or what have you in physical spaces, and there’s really only so much you can do over Zoom,” she said. “The overall effect is somewhat diminished, but we’ll make do with what we’ve got for now. It’s definitely not the same, but I wouldn’t say that we’re being slighted in any way. Of course we all miss practice, but with the lag on my Zoom calls, I really can’t blame our director for tabling it for this semester.”

Not only have instrumentalists struggled with the surge of COVID-19, but so have other performing artists, such as singers and actors. According to Nora McKee ‘23, a member of The Little Theater Society and Chapel Choir, the pandemic has hindered her artistic self-expression.. 

“With singing being my most practiced and valued performing art, it has been extremely hard to maintain any sort of regular outlet to express this,” McKee stated. “I feel as though we all must mourn the loss of some things during this time but make up for them with other outlets and creative ways to make the circumstances feel as normal as possible. 

“Figuring out a way to express yourself in a time like this is a journey with no timeline,” McKee continued. “Whatever students feel will bring them light in an odd season of life, I would recommend. There is not a large effort being put towards maintaining any sort of performing outlet, and this has been quite disheartening.”

For students like McQuillan, who are experiencing collegiate performing arts for the first time, the adjustment to the pandemic has been rather jarring.

“I just joined [the] band at JCU, but I was in my high school marching band,” McQuillan commented. “Online band is a completely different experience than in-person band. I will say the band director has done an excellent job of keeping us all engaged and playing our instruments. However, it is just not the same as playing in person.

“This being my first year, I haven’t actually met most of my fellow band members in-person, nor have I heard them play because we all need to be on mute when we do play [because of the Zoom lag]. We have been doing virtual pieces where we all send in our individual parts, and someone edits them together. While this is really fun and cool, it is not the same as playing together.”

Others who have been involved with the performing arts for much of their John Carroll career feel upset about these missed milestones. 

“I feel as though I am missing out on a large part of my John Carroll experience,” McKee said. “Performing is something that I love, and I have enjoyed every person and experience I have had through JCU performing arts programs.”

However, JCU students are pursuing their love for the performing arts, no matter the circumstance, whether it be over video calls or through tireless hours of individual practice. 

“We don’t meet for rehearsal, but we do still have Zoom calls just to hang out and catch up,” Callaghan said. “We made a PowerPoint with our end-of-year awards last spring, and we had a lot of fun with that. We’ve had a few other hangouts just for the heck of it, and we’re going to plan something soon for our annual Bandsgiving! We’re also a bunch of Star Wars nerds, so a movie night is also in the works. I do think that the struggles are worth it. 

“Pep band was the first to make me feel welcomed on campus, and it still continues to be my family, albeit a chaotic one. I’d be lost without them, and I’m forever grateful for the band.”