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Music educators calling for equity and restriction changes  

"It's sad for my students"
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Posted at 6:23 PM, Mar 01, 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Music educators are calling for equity and restriction changes.

After nearly a full year of teaching with tough COVID-19 restrictions for instrumental and choral, music teachers are calling on the state to make a change in recommendations.

Music teachers and students across the region are working hard to be creative in learning, rehearsing and performing music and singing virtually.

Music classes now have limited classroom instruction, but the tough COVID restrictions continue to create challenges.

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James Burritt, music educator, Lewiston Porter Central School District, in Zoom intetview.

“I would like to be able to give them the joy that comes with — you know — an audience applauding,” remarked James Burritt, music educator, Lewiston Porter Central School District.

New York State recommends students are separated by 12-feet and can not perform for an audience.

But Dr. David Brown, president of the New York State School Music Association and a schools superintendent near Syracuse, says we are the only state in the eastern U.S. following that recommendation.

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Dr. David Brown, president of the New York State School Music Association, in Zoom interview.

“And 12 feet is a recommendation — 12 feet is not a mandate — it is recommended but school district superintendents and boards take recommendations very strongly,” Brown explained.

Brown has been calling on the governor and state health department to make a change, but he tells 7 Eyewitness News there has been “no response.”

Educators say they've had enough.

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Helen Ihaza, band director, Westfield Academy, Westfield Central School District, in Zoom interview.

“It’s infuriating — it's frustrating — it's sad for my students,” declared Helen Ihaza, band director, Westfield Academy, Westfield Central School District.

Ihaza said now that high-risk sports are allowed, it's time to lift restrictions for music as well. She even wrote a letter to the governor calling for equity.

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Westfield Academy music students, Westfield Central School District.

“There are pictures of basketball players — that are two inches away from each others face with no mask and yet we have to be 12 feet apart,” Ihaza described.

Burritt said he agrees.

“How frustrated are you as a music educator to see the high risk sports move forward?” Buckley asked.

“It’s always been about equity really. I guess I’m just confused as to why that isn't something that can't happen for our musicians as well,” Burritt replied.

It is a point shared by Kenmore East High School band director Phil Aguglia.

“We all want to be back to normal,” Aguglia stated.

He points to an extensive Colorado study that shows the aerosol spread from instruments and recommends six feet with special masks.

Aguglia demonstrated how a special masks fits.

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Kenmore East High School band director Phil Aguglia, in Zoom interview demonstrates masks.

“Put your mouth piece in there and then it closes when you pull it off,” Aguglia demonstrated. “We also have these socks that go over the bells of the instruments that also help prevent the travel of aspirations.”

The state health department issued the following statement:

“Guidance exists for classroom instruction, including music classes. School performances, however, fall under the current safety restrictions for public performances and as the Governor outlined in his State of the State address and NY PopsUp! announcement, we are working to safely reopen additional industries, including the performing arts.”

Jeffrey Hammond, Public Information Officer, NYSDOH