Stillwater Music is reopening for in-person classes over the next few weeks in Durango, and when students walk in the building, they will notice a fresh coat of paint and renovations that have been made to allow for a safe environment for the school’s staff members, students and teachers.
What’s noticeable right out of the gate is that walls have been knocked down between rooms to make larger spaces for better social distancing. There’s a separate entrance and exit for the school, and a staggered class schedule has been created to ensure that there’s only ever one class showing up or leaving at any one time.
Stillwater Music Executive Director Jeroen van Tyn said there’s also at least 20 minutes between classes in a given room to allow for cleaning. And, unlike rehearsals in the past, students will not be allowed to switch instruments throughout a rehearsal, which is normally the case during Stillwater classes. Instructors are now tasked with coming up with musical arrangements that don’t depend on students switching all the time, he said.
And, of course, face coverings are required.
The process of getting everything together for fall classes has taken a little over a month, and van Tyn said because Stillwater is a unique business compared with other business in Durango, the organization worked with San Juan Basin Public Health to create a unique self-certification form.
A cool new feature at Stillwater is the renovation that has been made to a few of the smaller rooms that had been used for private lessons. Now, in order to be able to rehearse with bands that include wind instruments – impossible to play while wearing a mask – those ventilated rooms are where individual musicians will play their flute, trumpet, saxophone, etc. They will wear headphones that will allow them to keep up with the rest of the band playing just outside.
Van Tyn said he was worried about Stillwater when COVID-19 first came to town in the spring, and he said he and the rest of the staff had serious decisions to make about the future of the organization.
“I said, ‘First of all, what we’re going to do is take an extra week after spring beak, like the schools did, and then figure out what we’re going to do,” he said. “I went to my finance committee and said we have to prepare for at least four scenarios: One, is we’re folding forever; number two, we somehow mothball, keep a certain amount of resources, but break our lease; the third one would be just run our private lessons online and do no classes; and the last one is do everything. And so we considered all of those and what it would take.”
And really, shutting down completely was never an option the organization wanted to explore, van Tyn said.
“I’m a true believer; we’re believers here. It’s a nonprofit, none of us are doing this because this is the most money we could make,” he said. “For me, Stillwater’s been around for 15 years. And I think that it’s really established – at last count, we had 830 students at any one time, that’s our after-school, our preschool classes, early childhood classes, our adult classes, our school classes, that’s a lot of people ... that come here for music, and we do it because, for me personally, music is the most awesome experience I’ve ever had in my life, and I just can’t imagine not doing music.”