Jazz Band Remains in Tune in Spite of the Pandemic

by, Kelly Cwik, Contributor

COVID-19 has not stopped the Manhattan College Jazz Band from practicing and sharing their music to the community.

As director of the Jazz Band since 2012, Geoffrey Mattoone had to figure out a way to allow for his students to rehearse. With a band of 27 students, Mattoone knew they needed space. 

“Andrew Bauer [director of performing arts] and I came up with a plan to move the rehearsals out of room 517 [of Thomas Hall] into Smith Auditorium, where we could set up,” Mattoone said. 

Edward Grimes, a senior mechanical engineering major and president of the Jazz Band, describes how the band is set up in the auditorium.

“We have the rhythm section up on the stage and they have to abide by that six feet rule so it’s not too complicated to space everyone out,” Grimes said. “We are actually doing pretty well. And then the horns … we have to be 12 feet apart, so that’s a little more difficult. So since we have Smith and it is so big we just space everybody out.” 

Nevertheless, Grimes enjoys attending rehearsals. 

“I know a lot of people who are engineering students who are in jazz band, who are in performing arts and it’s like the second half of their lives,” Grimes said. “It’s just like an outlet and something we all love to do and everything. And it’s really fun to play in with everybody.”

Ashley Danz, a sophomore civil engineering major wrote in an email what she loves most about jazz band.

“I enjoy being able to play my instrument in a stress free environment,” she wrote. “I love that our jazz band accepts everyone because the point is to enjoy yourself not compete against others. While you have the choice to solo and stand out, you can also choose to just play with the band and blend with the rest of the music.”

Currently, the Jazz Band is working on a project to show their hard work and music. While in-person concerts are not allowed to happen, they came up with their own idea.

“I decided that we could record each section separately and piece it together into a virtual concert,” Mattoone said. “I got busy right once again in my home studio creating tracks for the band to play [and] record along to.”

In order to record the tracks while maintaining social distancing guidelines, the band works in smaller groups. 

“I will bring each section up to [MC Players Box] and record them in there, still socially distanced and then I’ll put the recording all together,” Mattoone said. “Kieran [Clifford], who’s the bass player, he’s a senior, and he did all of the video stuff that we did so far, he’ll do the video and will put this thing together and by hopefully early December we will have a three-to-five song performance.”

Danz went into more detail about the production process for their upcoming work.

“It takes time to record our songs as we need to do it section by section,” Danz said. “Starting with the rhythm section, we were broken apart so that we can make our recordings piece by piece,” she wrote. “While this takes longer, it makes it so that every section is heard in the recording and allows us to record in the box rather than in a big echoey auditorium.”

The Jazz Band will post their project on YouTube once completed. Grimes shared how enthusiastic he is for the final product. 

“We’re really proud of this project that we’re putting together and we hope it gets out,” Grimes said. “We always like to create more of an outreach and get the music to everybody.” 

While COVID-19 has brought many activities to a halt, attending rehearsals is something Mattoone’s students look forward to. 

“They’re in their room all day on Google meet with their classes, they can’t wait to go out and go to jazz band and actually do something in person is really special for them,” Mattoone said. 

Danz wrote how she feels about jazz band during COVID-19.

“Jazz is just as enjoyable now as it was before COVID-19,” Danz wrote. “The differences are minimal and just make it so we can do what we love, but safely.”

Despite all of the changes the jazz band has made this semester, Geoffrey Mattoone’s favorite part about being the director of the Jazz Band are the students. 

“I would say the number one thing is watching them grow and improve,” Mattoone wrote.