Singing via Zoom; University Choir Members express what they have done this semester despite the pandemic


The Cal U Choir (photo courtesy of Cal U website, c. 2019)

Thomas Scheidler, president of the university choir, calls this semester odd since the music room where the choir would meet almost daily has sat vacant for months now.

Scheidler is one of many students whom have been affected by the pandemic and closure of the Cal U campus for the fall semester, not allowing clubs and organizations to meet in person. Scheidler says the pandemic has affected almost everyone in the choir.

Although he does miss being in person and being surrounded by other students who share a love for singing, the choir is doing their best in making things work virtually. Some clubs might have gotten used to this virtual setting, but others have not.

“We used to meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon,” said Scheidler. “But now, we only meet on Mondays and Wednesdays.”

Scheidler meets with other choir members and their instructor, Randy Tillmutt, for approximately one hour every Monday and Wednesday via Zoom. The only things Scheidler recalls as being different is how the choir practices a little more nowadays than they did before moving to an online setting.

“We meet more one-on-one since we can’t meet in person like how we usually have in the past,” said Scheidler. “But, business is usual with the choir.”

A typical choir meet consists of multiple things. The members meet up and talk with Tillmutt and discuss any issues they might come into contact with any of the songs they rehearse.

“We try to find any wrinkles we might have and iron those out as quickly as possible,” said Scheidler.

Choir members also work on their breath markings throughout the song and talk about the piece overall. Due to the pandemic and not meeting in person, choir members must record themselves singing a particular song and send it to Tillmutt and await feedback. Scheidler says Tillmutt’s feedback usually focuses on what the choir members can do to emphasize their voice and the song more.

“The feedback from Dr. Tillmutt is generally always positive,” said Scheidler.

Tillmutt says being the instructor of the choir has provided many opportunities for not only him, but for the students that join.

“Every student that joins the choir can share their own personal talent amongst others who have a love for singing,” said Tillmutt. “You don’t even have to be an experienced singer to join.”

While there are no requirements or prior experience needed to join the choir, the only thing asked is students meet during the specified time on Mondays and Wednesdays, show interest in the songs, and take choir seriously.

Plans for the spring semester have been announced for in-person and on-campus learning and the choir is continuing to decide their plans for next semester.

Scheidler says he and other members of the choir executive members are figuring out what they can and cannot do and how to incorporate the CDC guidelines to keep everyone safe that choose to be on campus next semester.

“We’re hoping to have the same number of people in choir that we have had before,” said Scheidler. “We really want to be back in person just like so many other eager Cal U students.”

Dillon Shash, another fellow choir member, hopes to be back in person for the spring semester. However, he says being online has not disregarded any choir members for the time being.

It is different being online, don’t get me wrong,” said Shash. “The only odd thing is recording yourself singing and sending it to Dr. Tillmutt. I would like to be back in person so we don’t have to do that anymore.”

Aside from the “new normal” of choir, Scheidler encourages any interested students to still join choir if they would like.

Scheidler says interested students can email him or choir instructor, Randy Tillmutt, with questions or for more information.

“We look forward to getting back to normal and hopefully us choir members can get back to doing what we love to do, and that is singing for all to hear,” said Scheidler.

The choir is split into four different sections including two sections with women and the other two with the men. The men consist of tenors and basses. The tenors are men who can sing the higher notes while basses are men who sing lower notes.

Equivalent to the men, the women consist of altos and sopranos. The sopranos sing the higher notes while the altos sing the lower notes.

Although it was a relatively quiet semester for the choir, Scheidler still congratulates all members on another semester of hard work accomplished.

“We were unable to perform as a group for our yearly fall activities including Family Day and at Tracks Farms, because of the pandemic,” said Scheidler. “We also cannot sing Christmas carols this year either.”

Scheidler says this year has been tough but is still very proud of the work accomplished by the choir, despite meeting online. He guarantees that he and other choir members are ready to return to campus and share their talent with others.