UConn Music during COVID-19

A Message from Dr. Eric Rice, PhD, Department Head and Professor | Updated July 17, 2020

Hello from the Department of Music! We understand that students and their families are weighing their options for the fall of 2020 in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on their understanding of the modifications to the UConn Music experience, students may wish to attend UConn entirely online, to live on campus and attend in-person experiences when they can, or to take a year off entirely.  While we fervently hope you will continue your work with us, ultimately, this is a personal choice that the faculty and staff will respect. We have prepared this list of questions and answers in order to assist in the decision. The list is not exhaustive, and the answers are often not definitive. Please contact us if you have further questions. Please also bear in mind that things could change based on the prevailing conditions.


As of this writing (July 15, 2020), many of the specifics of UConn’s plans for reopening are still under development. Updates to the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at https://uconn.edu/public-notification/coronavirus/. The University has published general plans for reopening at https://reopen.uconn.edu; here are the main points for Academics and Instruction:


  • Classes will be provided in a range of formats including in-person, online, and a combination of the two formats to allow the University to prioritize both safety and the UConn educational experience.
  • While the University cannot guarantee any particular course selection, faculty and students who prefer a fully online experience for fall 2020 will be accommodated. And while the University cannot guarantee any particular course, UConn will work with students to ensure they have courses, online if requested, that support a timely progression towards their major(s) and degree.
  • Faculty who wish to teach courses exclusively online will be accommodated.
  • The capacity of classrooms will be reduced to allow for appropriate social distancing.
  • Students should be able to take a full course load; the University expects minimal, if any, disruption to most students’ progress to a degree.


The COVID-19 epidemic presents unique challenges for music, particularly for singing and playing wind and brass instruments. It is clear that these activities produce bioaerosols at a much higher rate than standard classroom activities, and that social distancing must be much more significant than the standard six feet in order to afford adequate protection. Other significant factors are the time of each rehearsal or lesson and the times in between, since the viral load in a given enclosed space increases over time with consistent phonation.


Please note that the course listings in the Student Administration System may not yet be up to date with regard to delivery designation (online, hybrid, in person, etc.) or other details. We hope to have these updated by the end of July, but may in some cases not have enough information to do so. Please contact us with questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I have face-to-face lessons with my applied teacher this fall?

While we know that some of our students want face-to-face lessons with their teacher in the teacher’s studio each week, some music faculty and some students may elect to teach or take their lessons online. In such cases, we will support remote applied instruction. In-person lessons will happen with appropriate social distancing standards and masks/shields/plexiglass barriers. This will be our “new normal” until we have highly effective COVID-19 therapies or a safe and effective vaccine.

Are we planning to have band, choir, orchestra, jazz, etc. this fall?

Yes. We know how valuable these experiences are for our students, and we are planning high-quality programs for our ensembles this fall. All ensembles will function using remote platforms for planning meetings and many rehearsals, though these online rehearsals will obviously function quite differently from the norm. Though the enrollment of a given ensemble can still be large, the number of students performing in a given piece will likely be smaller than usual, a “platooning” technique that will allow for small groups in a rotating in-person rehearsal schedule for those who want it. Masks, shields, and plexiglass barriers will play a role to protect the UConn Music community. Recording projects, new webcasting capabilities, and other innovations are in preparation now to ensure that our work is meaningful, satisfying, and safe.

Will we be able to perform for live audiences this fall?

No. We are working to upgrade equipment in von der Mehden Recital Hall that will allow live-streaming for all concerts from there during the fall semester.

What kinds of music classes are being offered online/remotely this fall?

Traditional classroom courses (music theory, music history, and the like) are being offered in a synchronous, remote fashion to preserve some of the structure of music student schedules. Other courses (Applied Music Techniques for Music Educators, for example) will likely be a blend of online instruction and face-to-face experiential learning while adhering to social distancing protocols. We will place experiential instruction in rooms large enough to provide social distancing.

What about opera?

Fully-staged opera will not be possible this year, but we are discussing ways to engage in a combination of remote and in-person coaching and staging to allow small groups of singers to perform scenes with appropriate social distancing.

What about chamber music?

Chamber music ensembles will be offered this fall with the same combination of online meetings/coaching and rehearsals involving social distancing and appropriate masks/shields/plexiglass barriers.

What about recitals? Will I be able to have my scheduled recital this coming semester?

Probably. Given changes to the academic schedule for the fall semester, your recital date may need to be changed. Your recital can likely go forward as a livestreamed event, but only in von der Mehden Recital Hall, and only if all protocols are strictly followed. Preference will be given to students performing required as opposed to elective recitals.

Will I have access to practice rooms?

Music students will have access to practice rooms on a strictly scheduled basis coordinated by the music office. They will be required to wipe down surfaces, including pianos, with a provided hydrogen peroxide solution both before and after their practice sessions; rooms will be left with doors open between sessions to facilitate ventilation.

I am an international student. How does all of this affect me?

Please contact Drs. Rice and Squibbs as well as International Student Services via email to discuss your particular situation.

When do we start classes?

Classes begin on Monday, August 31, 2020.

When does the semester end?

Classes end on Monday, December 7, with a reading period from December 8 to 13, and final exams ending on Sunday, December 20.

Will we be returning to campus/in-person instruction after Thanksgiving Break?

No. All of our performances and in-person lessons and rehearsals must happen before Thanksgiving Break.