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A Message from Dr. David Holdhusen, Chair, USD Department of Music

Greetings from the USD Department of Music! I am very excited to welcome everyone back to campus this fall. I have deeply missed working with students and hearing the beautiful sounds of our music building. It has been much too quiet on campus and in my life over the last few months. I am eager to make music again as I assume that many others are looking forward to performing or listening to these glorious sounds that have been so lacking since March.

I know you have many questions about how this is all going to work during the upcoming school year during this unprecedented time of COVID-19. I want to assure you that we at USD, in the College of Fine Arts, and especially within the Department of Music are doing everything we can to plan for a safe and healthy return to campus in August. It has always been my goal, and the mission of the department, to provide the best environment for the education of our students, the performance of beautiful music and the development of a lifelong passion for the artistic expression of music. In these times a new priority must be the health and safety of everyone. Below you will find a listing of frequently asked questions (FAQs) with accompanying answers in the hopes of easing concerns about and building momentum towards the start of a new, yet different academic year. Please keep in mind that these topics, questions and answers represent what we know as of this moment. It is my intention to update and amend these questions/answers as information changes, additional questions arise or new details are introduced. It has been clear to me during the course of this pandemic that information is much like the weather in South Dakota, if you wait five minutes, it will probably change.

I have been reminded on numerous occasions over the past few months that that the faculty, staff and students at the University of South Dakota are some of the most dedicated, hardworking and passionate people on earth. I have been inspired, motivated and supported by the perseverance and commitment shown our Coyote music community. During this time I have rediscovered the truly remarkable gift that is music. I look forward to engaging with you (some for the first time) in the music making process. These are challenging times, unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime. We need music now, more than ever. The world needs music now, more than ever! I ask you all to work hard, practice, study and continue to share our outstanding music with the USD community and the world. I eagerly await your return and look forward to welcoming you back to “The FA.”

Will USD Music classes meet face-to-face?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. The intention of the Department is to meet in a face-to-face setting as much as possible. However, there will also be a blend of hybrid instruction and online learning based on the size and nature of the course. The University has had to move some courses online to free up enough spaces for socially-distanced learning. In addition, we are trying some unique configurations (such as a Zoom Room) to provide students and faculty with a variety of instructional options.

Will USD Music Ensembles meet face-to-face?

Yes. The University and Music Department know how crucial these experiences are to student life for both our majors and non-majors. We are planning for high quality student experiences in our ensembles this fall. These ensembles will be run somewhat differently than in the past. Each conductor is working with information from the professional organizations to develop a plan for instruction and safety. It is likely that there will be various kinds of rehearsal rotations, small ensembles, and sectional work throughout the semester in order to maintain social distancing and create the safest environment possible.

Will applied lessons be taught face-to-face?

The answer to this question is again both yes and no. The Music Department recognizes that most students want face-to-face lessons with their teacher in the teacher’s studio each week. These lessons will happen with appropriate social distancing standards and safety protocols such as masks and face shields. In a situation where a professor’s studio does not allow for social distancing, classrooms and other spaces are being set aside for the teaching of lessons. There will also be a “digital studio” set up in the Fine Arts Building for students who take lessons in an online platform.

Will there be concerts and recitals on campus this year?

Yes! There will absolutely be performances this year. These may look different than in the past, but we expect to continue to produce world class concerts with our ensembles and look forward to numerous outstanding student performances throughout the year.

At this point, we will not have live audiences attend our ensemble concerts on campus in our indoor performance venues. The Music Department is looking into a concert this fall at an outdoor venue in Vermillion. All ensembles will plan on performances which will be streamed to the public. The specifics of this plan will be released later as we are working through protocols and technology details.

Public Recitals will be allowed with live audiences if the student, professor, accompanist, and venue schedule are all in agreement. These performances will be for an invited audience only that will correspond to the number of people which can safely assemble in the selected venue. These numbers are currently being determined and will be shared at a later date. Recitals will also be streamed live online and can be presented from anywhere without a live audience in attendance.

What about Marching Band?

Details are still being finalized as to what the athletic season will look like at USD this fall. However, the marching band will play some role on the campus this fall.

What about the USD Opera?

Plans are being made to present opera performances this year. Specifics are still to be determined, but there will be opera rehearsals and some sort of production (more than likely a streaming or video presentation) during both semesters this year.

How will ensemble auditions work?

Each conductor will determine a method for ensemble auditions. The professor will contact those registered for the ensemble with details as the start of the semester gets closer. This info will also be available on various websites and posted on campus.

How will practice rooms be kept safe?

Practice Rooms will be assigned this year. Students will sign up for use based on info that will be shared at the start of the semester. Cleaning protocols will be displayed and expected to be followed. Student usage will be tracked throughout the semester to assist in contact tracing should that be necessary.

Will my grades be impacted by illness? What is the attendance policy?

Access USD's case management plan. The university encourages students to reach out to Student Services at if you are concerned about the number of absences you incur from illness. They will work with you to notify all your instructors and find a solution that is in your interest. The expectation is if you are sick you stay home, if you are well you go to class or rehearsal.

What steps are being taken by the Music Department in order to ensure health and safety?

The Music Department in doing everything possible to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty, staff, and the public. While these measures hope to protect our music community, there is no 100% guarantee of safety. We need everyone to do their part.

  • Face coverings are expected by USD out of respect for your health and others. The professional expectation in the music field is that face coverings will be worn. We expect face coverings will be worn when in the Fine Arts Building at all times: in public spaces, during classes and rehearsals, and in professor studios.
  • Classrooms are being reassigned and realigned in order to allow for appropriate social distancing.
  • A traffic flow pattern will be established in the Music Department in order to help people move safely around the building.
  • Plexiglass barriers have been installed around the computer/keyboard work stations in the department computer labs.
  • Additional hand sanitizers have been installed in the Music Department.
  • Practice rooms will be assigned. Students will be allowed to sign up for practice time. More details will be sent directly to students.
  • Classrooms and practice rooms will include cleaning supplies with instructions as to how and when to use them.
  • All University guidelines will be followed to ensure a healthy environment.

How will the Music Office and Music Department custodial staff functions change?

The music office will not be available as a hub of activity for the foreseeable future. The faculty and ataff want to ensure your questions are answered and your needs are met. To that end, a cart and table will be placed outside the music office door Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. with supplies and forms. The office will be open, but except for special circumstances determined by the chair and secretary, no one will be allowed in or to linger in the doorway. We encourage you to email with your questions and requests. Please also consult your studio professor and/or advisor as well as various online resources for assistance.

Our custodial staff will also be working diligently to keep you safe and healthy. Please have consideration for them and practice social distancing and wear a mask for their safety and the safety of their families.

Additional Resources and Campus Information:

USD COVID-19 Information

Academic Calendar

USD Student Questions

CARES Act Information

Faculty and Staff Information

General COVID-19 Information