Q&A: The Reality of Playing Music During the Pandemic

Anna Wilson tries to balance it all


Outstanding student and musicians at Rio Americano, Anna Wilson practices her saxophone.

Edena Ichel, Mirada Editor

As a junior at Rio Americano High School, Anna Wilson tries to balance it all: sports, school, music, and a social life. With golf and volleyball during the fall, combined with four AP classes and involvement in four different bands, it is almost like Wilson doesn’t live the same 24-hour days as the rest of us.

Wilson began playing music in 4th grade when she started out with piano, then moved on to drums, and finally, fell in love with her three main instruments of alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, and tuba. Since elementary school, her musical talent continued to grow and in 8th grade, she was already playing in a high school jazz band. 

Then, half-way through freshman year, Covid hit, school went online, and playing music wouldn’t be the same for over a year and a half. 

How did you continue to play music during online school?

When we were online the biggest problem was not getting to play with each other because we couldn’t do it over zoom. We had individual assignments so for example, our teacher would tell us to play songs and record ourselves to put on google classroom. As a band, we tried a couple things and one method was to play a part of a song and to put it together into one big video. It worked out but it was hard not having people next to you because your music has to blend together, and you have to hear them in order to know how to play. 

Were there any unexpected opportunities that the pandemic brought you for music? 

About a month prior to school transitioning online, a band called Sammy Miller and the Congregation visited Rio, played a performance for us, and had a little workshop with us. While online, we teamed up with them and they had tracks that we could play along with or manipulate to learn and practice different songs. You could even mute your part then play along with the recording of everyone else’s part which was really fun. We all had to play separate though, and our band motto for the year was “separate but together” since we were apart physically while trying to play music together. 

What’s playing music like now that school is back in person?

For the first week or two we weren’t allowed to play at all but a little bit later they said that we could play with bell covers and masks on. We had to play outside and it was freezing cold so we were wearing like ten layers of clothes with our chairs 6 ft apart. My band teacher told us, “you guys are not listening to each other” which makes sense because we didn’t have to listen to anyone while online since it was just ourselves and our recording. It was  definitely weird having to relearn how to hear the people around you and work your part into their part. 

What are your current music goals right now either as a team or individually?

We’re trying to get into the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, and you have to be off the charts amazing to get in. We worked hard for it and got one recording session that was pretty good. It wasn’t our best and we were going to have another one in two weeks and then Covid hit our band. Every week another person was gone. I was out for about 5 days and when I got back, we were going to do the recording because everyone was there. However, that couldn’t happen because almost all of our trombone section got Covid along with a few trumpet players. There was nothing we could do and we just decided to not do the second recording and use what we already had. I just wish we had more time without Covid to be together and record that because it would be amazing to go to New York and play jazz.