Everything Changed a Year Ago · Gregory Pittman

Everything Changed a Year Ago

Friday, March 13, 2020. The second Friday in March tends to be a professional development day in a lot of school districts in South Carolina. What made this second Friday unique was the buzz that was in the air. Two days earlier, the stock market had crashed on news that countries around the world were going into lockdown to stem the tide of the spreading coronavirus. And the NBA canceled its season as players began to test positive for the coronavirus.

Our professional development day began at 8:00. For two hours, we sat through presentations on, well, I don’t remember what but I could take a pretty good guess; they’re always about the same thing.

We took a break at 10:00. When we resumed 15 minutes later, everything had changed. Word had come down from our district office that the schedule for the rest of the day had been scrapped. Teachers were to spend the remainder of the day preparing two weeks’ worth of at-home learning packets for our students just in case the Governor ordered schools to close.

March 15, 2021. The Governor of South Carolina declared an emergency and ordered schools to close for a period of two weeks.1 That initial period would be extended several times. Those two weeks of plans turned into an immediate immersion in virtual learning methods. Little did we know that when we put students on their buses or in their cars to go home on Thursday, March 12, we would not see them again in person for five months.

The Arts

The arts have been hit especially hard. Singers, instrumentalists, dancers, and actors all exercise specific breathing skills in order to perform our art. In the age of a relatively unknown and little understood airborne pathogen that rides on aerosols, our activities are among the most dangerous. We had to completely shut down for a time. When we became a little more comfortable and agile with the safety measures (more stringent than the ones published by the CDC), we were able to slowly and cautiously return to some of our activities. On top of the lost performance opportunities, we lost an entire year of recruitment. Arts education programs are developmental. We’re always building for the future. This year's new students are next year’s corp and the following year’s leaders. It will take two or three years just to get our programs back to where they were before the pandemic.

Broadway is not yet open. Gigging musicians are still fighting for their very existence.

We’re Almost There

Life is starting the lack road back to normal. Vaccines are rolling out worldwide. Schools might look a little closer to what we’re used to in the fall, now that teachers are eligible for vaccinations (despite our Governor’s objections). Arts programs will likely need to continue implementing many of the safety measures we used this year, but we’ll be able to sing and rehearse and perform and maybe even take trips to the special events that help our programs grow.

So as soon as it's safe, as soon as you've received your vaccinations and as soon as local officials say it's safe, go to a show. A movie would be fine but a live performance by local or touring performers would be even better. Support then artists that make our lives better. Support the students who will one day be those artists. Support the teachers that make that happen.

  1. He has since essentially apologized for that decision, saying that the great citizens of South Carolina should have been allowed to make decisions for their own health and safety without government interference. Most Republican governors agreed, with disastrous effects. ↩︎