Interview with Dylan Chmura-Moore, 03/29/2022

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

´╗┐KC: This is Kylie Carrier interviewing Dr. Dylan Chmura-Moore on Tuesday, March 29 2022 for campus COVID stories. Student Callie Oltz is also with us. Campus COVID stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Before we get started, could you please state your name and spell it for us?

DCM: Dylan Schmura-Moore. D-Y-L-A-N C-H-M-U-R-A - M-O-O-R-E

KC: Now for the purposes of getting a good audio recording. Tell us again who you are and what your title is here at UW Oshkosh.

DCM: Dylan Churma-Moore. I am an associate professor at the University.


KC: Before we dive into your campus COVID story we'd like to get to know you a little better. So first, tell me about where you grew up.

DCM: I grew up in a small little college town named Oberlin. That is in Ohio, which is about 30 minutes away from Cleveland.

KC: Where did you earn your degree or degrees?

DCM: I earned my bachelor's degree at a school also outside of Cleveland, called Baldwin-Wallace College. There's a conservatory of music there, which I attended. Then I studied at New England Conservatory, which is in Boston, Massachusetts. And finally at UW Madison, where I earned my doctorate musical arts degree.

KC: How did you come to work at UW Oshkosh?

DCM: While I was still pursuing my degree at Madison, I started teaching at UWO, part time. And once I completed my studies, I was fortunate to receive the 00:02:00tenure track position right out of school.

KC: So when did you start working here? What year?

DCM: I think my first year was 2011. The fall of 2011 was when I started my full-time tenure track appointment.

KC: And what position did you hold?

DCM: At that time it was assistant professor. My duties were to teach trombone lessons and to teach general studies in the music department, meaning classes for non-majors.

KC: Tell me about your position at UWO pre-COVID. Before March 2020, describe what you did or who and what you were responsible for.

DCM: Luckily, my duties have not changed pre and post COVID. I am still teaching the Department of Music where I conduct the university symphony orchestra. I 00:03:00still teach trombone lessons, and other courses per year, though, that has matured over the years that I've been here. Most specifically, teaching a course music 110 which is titled music community ethics for non-majors, which is a class that associates music with the community and connects it to the time and place in which it was created. Post COVID I have the same duties.

KC: Okay, as you have the same duties, what big events did you plan as well? Pre-COVID.

DCM: In spring of 2020 when COVID shut down the university, The orchestra was in the midst of preparing a concert to give the week that we did shut down or maybe 00:04:00just a few days after the week we shut down. At spring break is the point. The concert we were giving was going to be a grand gigantic homage to the very well-known living American composer John Williams, who everyone knows is the music from Star Wars. The Indiana Jones, you name it, he's written it and we were presenting a full concert of his music, the orchestra was, which is a huge undertaking, involving a myriad of moving parts and people from the community not just our own students. And in our final week of preparations is when the campus closed its doors and so we had to cancel that event.

KC: Now let's move on to the early days of COVID. When was the first time you remember hearing about COVID-19.

DCM: I think it was in mid to late January of 2020. Hearing it just through the 00:05:00grapevine of news, some new disease was being detected. Well, we thought only abroad in China.

KC: What was your initial reaction to the news?

DCM: I don't know if I was interested. But I was aware. I didn't think it would cause any disruption in my life, or my work and not be the international pandemic, that it is. I think you can still say, and I thought it was going to be received as many diseases have been received recently in the US. That it started abroad, basically being mitigated before it affected anything of any 00:06:00value in the US. Which obviously was not the case.

KC: How would you describe your feelings about the disease itself?

DCM: Ah, can you ask that question again?

KC: How would you describe your feelings about the disease itself?

DCM: Well, I am in a very privileged position. I'm relatively young, I'm relatively healthy, my family is relatively young and relatively healthy. So even though my son has contracted COVID, he's three now. And I think I did too, I tested negative, how could I not have received it from him with intimately living in the same house as a toddler at the time? It didn't affect him at all, except for being cranky on one day, and it basically didn't affect me other than a mild case of basically the flu. Those kind of flu like symptoms. So although 00:07:00it has affected my work schedule and life, I'm in a privileged position that I've not had to worry about any of its physical effects, health effects, and luckily for me, any monetary effects. Both myself and my wife have been able to continue working the entire time without any kind of conflict, or any kind of delay, any kind of pausing in our lives. So my feelings towards the pandemic is, it's complicated, because for me, I could easily argue that it has not affected my life. It has not affected me. It has affected those that I really don't have much community contact with. My parents are older, but relatively healthy and have not contracted COVID. I've not lost anyone in relationship to me to COVID. 00:08:00And so again, I am in an extremely privileged place where it has not really affected me in any kind of meaningful way has it affected, of course, it affects us all, but it has not affected me in any really meaningful way. And so my feelings towards it are complex, I can sympathize with others. And there's a lot of others to sympathize with. But personally, my personal feelings, it's hard to navigate that conflict.

KC: So since you said it hasn't really affected your life, can you describe your feelings of your students about the disease that you know of?

DCM: I think my students are, like many others have experienced great tragedy, great loss. I know students that have not only been quite themselves, but their family members have been quite ill. I know some have lost members of their family. For sure. So, I know it has affected many of my students far more than 00:09:00it has affected me, especially me now, but certainly considering them as being students first. I think that their learning has been affected and minimized over the past two years, and they are the worst for it.

KC: So you said your son contracted COVID. Did you or anyone close to you contract COVID and become really sick? If you want to describe it more.

DCM: Again, my son contracted it when he was just two. I wouldn't have even known that he contracted it. He was only cranky for about a half a day. But an adult in his care facility, tested positive and so we had to get him tested for it. We were strongly encouraged to get him tested. So we did. And he came back 00:10:00positive and I was tested at the same time. So, I probably was exposed to him at a later date. And so, you know, I think I tested myself too early. I had all of his effects, all of his symptoms, lethargic, and a little stuffy or what have you. But nothing severe, I would have gone to work. In any other part of my life, nothing would have changed for me in my daily routine, except for feeling a little bit under the weather. So in my immediate family, and even in my extended family, we really have not had any kind of ill response to the pandemic, health wise. While incredibly lucky, hopefully it stays that way.

KC: Now, let's talk about your situation when the university closed the campus in mid-March. What were your feelings as everything, UWO and everywhere else in 00:11:00mid-March started shutting down all of a sudden?

DCM: I at the time, again, coming from my very privileged place, I was not overly concerned, I was not fearful of my or my family's health, and knew that we needed to mitigate it for the greater community. I thought that maybe we had closed down a week sooner than I thought we needed to at the time. This is what my feeling was because Wisconsin cases were still so low at that time. And I understand of course, why we were to keep trying to keep them relatively low, of course. But at the moment, when things closed, I knew it was coming, but I thought it was a week sooner than what it ought to, in the moment, I thought that it should probably have waited till spring break. And then considered a 00:12:00closure. Of course, things continue to unfold, not how I anticipated it. So of course, I'm not a medical expert, by any means. And so my very naive point of view was obviously wrong. But at the immediate when the university closed, I wouldn't say I was against it, but I didn't feel like there was a need yet in our community to close it. I can look back at that with revisionist history, of course, but at the moment, that was my feeling.

KC: Describe what happened in your department and what you discussed with your team about what needs to be done. And also, can you explain who your team is?

DCM: So, we had lots of teams in the music department, because music making is a more dangerous - if I can use that word - activity for COVID, and the spreading of COVID, than going to the 00:13:00grocery store or any kind of normal day to day activity. Outside of maybe contact sports, where you're literally, you know, touching someone and breathing perhaps in their face. When one sings, or plays aerosol producing instruments, that means anything that uses your breath. So it could be trumpet, flute, or singing as I mentioned, any of those kinds of things produce certain droplets, certain aerosols, that disperse the specific COVID at a much higher rate than just speaking. And so we were very aware of some initial studies that were exploring this and the data was incredibly bad or worrisome that we would have 00:14:00to be very cautious, continuing to try and make music in any kind of in person capacity and to make music not in person because it is asinine, it doesn't make any sense. So we had many teams. I was one team, for example, of which was all of the ensemble directors. So those who conduct the bands, those who conducted choirs, myself who conducted the orchestra, the jazz ensembles, we all got together and spoke about how we were going to try to deal with remote learning, at least for the foreseeable future back in March of 2020. Because not only do we have in person music with aerosol producing instruments, but we all have a lot of them all in the same room. This is incredibly challenging, because being 00:15:00in an enclosed space for a long period of time with many people, obviously was amplifying the potential of anybody contracting COVID. That was one team, the other team was a team of people who teach privately. So when music instruction happens one on one, and the vast majority of cases are still in a small space, and again, dealing with these aerosol producing instruments, we there had to be in great conversation about how we're going to mitigate perhaps the dispersal of COVID to a teacher, the student, or perhaps the next student who comes in and so forth. Then I was in another team, which was music department wide that which was thinking about how we are dealing with perhaps, future teaching. If ever again, who knew at that time, of in person classroom teaching. So there was three teams that were at a 00:16:00constant. We were consistent, we were simultaneously working on figuring out what were the strategies we were going to try to employ the rest of that term or for perhaps, we thought at the time, the next semester, or maybe year, depending upon how COVID continued to rise or fall or variants were to be introduced in the future. So there was a lot of conversation and we were we were relying on external studies, from a couple institutions. The most notable one was the John Hopkins School of Medicine, was doing a joint study with University of Colorado, and measuring how various singers or instrumentalists disperse aerosols through 00:17:00their instruments, through bells of instruments, through their mouth, through the keyholes of their instrument, or just through the voice that they're singing. How far they go, how long do they stay in the air? Where do they travel? Where do they plume? And how many air exchanges one might need in order to clear the air for another person to use that space after them?

KC: Can you describe a few examples of what strategies you guys came up with within those teams.

DCM: So following those recommendations, and there were others as well, we basically put several things in place for the rest of semester as the university was closed and while all in person learning ceased. And so we taught our private lessons online via zoom or other - I think it was all Zoom at the time - and we taught our lecture classes all online, either in 00:18:00person or asynchronous. For our large ensembles, it is literally impossible for anyone to play in a large ensemble live in real time online, there's just a lag. There's no way to make music live online in real time, without having some sort of delay. And so literally, you cannot make music with another person unless you don't care about when someone starts to play or ends and stops playing a note, which is the whole point of making music together. So, the large ensembles began to explore and try a number of things. One of them was turning our performing ensembles into research paper type events. Another one was to independently 00:19:00record themselves and then layer them to one big file, as I'm sure you probably have seen, shared online, as many ensembles did at that time. And everyone, every large ensemble director and every applied teacher tried something different. And I don't know if anybody felt good about it. For if any of it worked. We all tried something different based upon our own technical abilities on the computer and time to be able to devote to that online teaching.

KC: Out of those strategies, which one were you in control of?

DCM: So being someone who is teaching applied lessons, someone who was teaching in person lecture classes, as well as in person lecture classes, and conducting 00:20:00the orchestra, I had three different methods I had to try and use. For one of my non major classes, we moved to asynchronous instruction. For another one of my classes, which was for music majors, we tried synchronous instruction. For my applied studies, we tried asynchronous recordings. So, they would record themselves, share that with me, then I would share comments back. And this was partly due to the technology that our students had as well. Some of them were not able to take part in synchronous teaching regardless of who was in it, regardless if it's a lecture or a class, or a private lesson. And then for the orchestra, we tried a research project, where all the members of the orchestra individually listened to music and wrote an informal essay, a research paper on 00:21:00their listening.

KC: Some employees roles were also deemed essential and that they were instructed to come to work in person, were you among that group?

DCM: I was not, although I think the arts are essential to life. No, we are not essential in the same way that we would define a healthcare professional.

KC: With whom did you work most closely executing your response to COVID-19.

DCM: We work with those teams, as I mentioned, but once we put the plan in place, our upper standard operating protocols, what we call it, SOP. Once we put that into place, in mid-March over spring break, then we didn't touch it again, or meet again, as teams until the end of summer, when we were going to reevaluate how we're going to deliver instruction for the fall. So after that initial setting of protocols, there was no more communication. So I was alone, I 00:22:00was by myself teaching.

KC: What were your three biggest challenges regarding your work from March of 2020, to December of 2021, if you can describe what needed to be done to your department and your responsibilities?

DCM: Well, I'll split it up into two segments, because we changed from March to May of 2020. Again, everything was online, everything was remote. And we were trying to make do as best we could with the circumstances that were under changing around the format of our course delivery, which is inappropriate. Music learning, I don't think is possible to be done well, remotely. So that's what I 00:23:00mean by inappropriate. So we're making do with the best we could at the moment. And I obviously already shared how we did that. However, in the fall of 2020, we went back, at least the music department, because we believed it to be inappropriate. We went back to in person music making for all that could, for everyone who was able to do so. For example, we had some faculty who had underlying health conditions and could not teach in person and so needed to and wanted to teach remotely. Not being one of those people, I tried as best as I could to stay in person and to bring us back into person. So to be more specific, for the orchestra in the fall, we met again in person. However, what we did was to not allow any aerosol producing instrumentalists into the orchestra. So we just had strings and piano and percussion perform in the fall 00:24:00of 2020. We were all masked. We were all sat distanced from one another. I believe we sat six feet at the time. We all had our own stands at the time. So there was no touching of the same papers or moving of chairs. I needed to be responsible for doing all of that moving and setting up myself and the students simply came and went. When they came in, they had to be in a certain single file line and exit in a certain single file line, go down and up the hallway in a certain direction while not going past other people. All the music that was given to them was to be throw away paper copies. There were wipes to wipe down all the stands and chairs and things before and afterward. Before and after rehearsals we needed to give I believe a half an hour for the air in the room to circulate in order for it to be "safe" for the next group of people to enter the 00:25:00space. And again, those strategies were born out of research done at Johns Hopkins and other places that are being shared frequently, online and through various professional organizations. When I'm part of the College Orchestra Directors Association, or the College Band Directors National Association with music teachers, they were all taking part in these studies and then sharing that data with its members. We went back to in person lessons and in person private lessons. We just did so in a very large space, so we could be 15 feet away from each other. And in person, classroom instruction resumed as well. Although we were distanced six feet I believe, and masked of course, other ensembles who did 00:26:00have aerosol producing instruments, like bands for example, who are nothing but aerosol producing instruments, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, and so forth, they required they could only rehearse for a half an hour at a time, and then a half an hour for the space to clear before the next group to come in and use the same rehearsal space. They had all had to be masked with slits in them. So you could put your mouthpiece or what have you, inside the mask when you played, and your bell had to be covered. When you're producing a sound, doesn't matter if you're a trumpet or flute, you had to have what are called Bell covers. And in some places around the country, though we didn't do it luckily, is they would put some instruments in bags, the entire instrument would go into a bag, I'm not kidding. So you'd put a clarinet into a clarinet bag and blow into this clarinet inside this bag to try and mitigate the aerosols from being shared. And so there was a run on people who are manufacturing these types of musical masks, Bell 00:27:00covers, Bell bags, and so forth. And so every ensemble had its own protocol. For example, the band also couldn't have more than 12 people, I believe in the room at one time, because they were aerosol producing instruments and the room that they were practicing in was only deemed to have allowed a certain number of people in it based upon facilities measurements of height and width and depth. And of course, air circulations as well. But luckily for the orchestra, since we were non aerosol producing, being strings only, we weren't inhibited by the number of folk choirs rehearsed, but choirs had to rehearse. Not onstage, but in the hall. So everything was reversed. So the members of the choir met, choir 00:28:00didn't meet, but they were 15 feet apart in all directions, masked as well as they sang. And so they stood in seats in our music hall up and down the aisles. And in amongst the seats, while the conductor stood on stage and conducted to the "audience". So every ensemble had its own policy and tried to mitigate the spread with distancing, masking, and rehearsal length. So again, half our maximum meeting times for aerosol producing instruments, and being somewhere between eight and 15 feet apart, depending upon the musician. Strings are six feet apart, winds and brass are 15 feet apart, and so forth.

KC: How many classes and what classes were you teaching at the time when the campus was remote? How large were they and how many students were in your classes?


DCM: I'm not sure if I'm going to remember all that, but I believe orchestra, when we were preparing for that John Williams concert, had near 60 people on stage. Post pandemic for contrast, I think I had 15 people on stage. I was also teaching private lessons. So one at a time, that didn't change. And I was teaching a couple in person lecture classes. One was for music majors and that I think we had 21 in the class. And there was a non-major class as well, as I was teaching, that had 50 people in the class, also lecture style.

KC: How were you able to teach music via online classes? So I know you kind of touched on the zoom and everything, but were you able to hear certain instruments when they would all play together? Did you listen to each student one at a time? And how did you work with these issues if there were any?


DCM: Yeah so, the lectures were typical, asynchronous or synchronous, we did it all on campus. Nothing different than anything else that was happening on campus. Videoing yourself in and those who couldn't meet synchronous, would do asynchronous instruction. So nothing different than anybody else, I'm sure more or less across campus. But for the music, you're right, that was a bit different. For my applied studies, my one-on-one lesson, as I mentioned, we did it the way we did it, because I wanted to respect other people's schedules and other people's circumstances, realizing that people didn't have access to the same equipment or technology microphones. Maybe they couldn't practice, perform, or have a lesson where they were located, you know, if they're in a certain kind of living environment that wouldn't allow them to make music at home, which is 00:31:00not uncommon. I wanted to give all of my Applied Studies students the availability to record and practice and play at their own ability, or whenever that needed to be, however they needed it to be. So I just asked them to record themselves, could be on their phone, or whatever, and upload that. There's some software that we were using at the time, that was not on campus but that was from Microsoft. A kind of software that was being developed just for this at that time that Microsoft bought, I believe, where you could record yourself into a video right there at a time. And it could be an audio clip, you know, just like YouTube doesn't allow just for video, just for audio, you have to have some sort of video component to it. Even if it's a black blank screen, you could 00:32:00record yourself right to this app, and the app would upload it to this environment that can be private and observed by any other music teachers. Hopefully, the name will come to me. So I did that, I allowed that asynchronous recording and lessons from all my applied students. And then for orchestra, knowing that it was impossible to do any kind of large ensemble thing. Thinking it was just asinine to be even asked to have an orchestra that was asynchronous. Understand we needed to because the people that signed up for it needed credit to graduate and so forth. I didn't ask them to record or play anything. All we did was their independent listening and writing on music.

KC: Could you describe any issues that you faced with the technology when doing these classes online?

DCM: There were definitely some students who didn't have access to the technology or have a strong stable internet connection or what have you. And so 00:33:00whenever I got a note from one of the students saying, they had a problem with their computer, or they had a problem with their Wi Fi, whatever it was, it was just a blanket. No worries. Give me the work when you can and we'll figure out any kind of ways of making it up. So absolutely, students had problems with internet connection, students had problems with their technology, students didn't have microphones, students may not even own their own instrument. Certainly some of the bigger instruments students didn't even own. Our piano majors, they may not have owned a piano at home, all our percussion students didn't own any of the percussion instruments they would normally play on at school, tubas, double bases, and so forth. A lot of people don't own some of those bigger instruments. And so they just didn't have access to what they needed to learn, to study. So there had to be a lot of just imagination of how 00:34:00we could reimagine their learning and try to learn from a different perspective. Instead of instrumentally with an instrument on their face, perhaps that it had to be something intellectually critiquing what someone could possibly listen to. But a lot of students had a lot of problems with technology, and I'm sure everyone was very accommodating to that.

KC: Can you touch base on the senior recitals?

DCM: Yeah so, when a student finishes their four years of study in the music department, regardless, their major they have to give some sort of capstone project. We'll call that a senior recital, where they play perform basically an hour of music for a live audience. Some students did offer a senior recital but they did it pre recorded just for their teachers. Some of them tried to live stream it on their own We didn't have the software up and available to help them 00:35:00at the time. So they would just be in their living room and live stream basically with Ustream or whatever, Facebook Live or YouTube at the moment, they just streamed it on their own for their own friends, for their own family. And some of us also just didn't require them to do a live or not live, a senior recital, per typical, because they might have had, again, had access to the instrument, I have access to accompaniment, meaning if you're, whatever, violinist, you play a senior recital, you're going to probably play with piano, they might not have the availability to play with a pianist being locked in their, their own living room without a piano perhaps. And so and certainly they couldn't invite someone who plays piano not in their family into their home, that was just, you know, not even imagined at that time. So a lot of a lot of scene recitals just didn't happen per-typical. And instead, they did some sort of written project to try and speak to that capstone experience.


KC: What were the three things that you're most proud of regarding your response to COVID-19?

DCM: Um, I don't think I was proud of anything that happened in March and April and May. We were just trying to make do with what we had, I am proud of what I did in fall 22', sorry, fall of 20'. If I'm not mistaken, spring is 21'. When one I was proud that the orchestra met and was live in person, I think we were one, I think we were the only orchestra in the state of Wisconsin that was meeting live in person. Because I chose to limit it to strings only and percussion. So I'm proud that we did it safely. I don't think anyone contracted COVID in the orchestra that entire year, if I'm not mistaken. Though, a couple 00:37:00were exposed to it, and quarantined out of precaution. I'm also proud of the project we chose, instead of just playing whatever, whatever music and for ourselves, we couldn't offer any live performances. What we did is we embarked on a recording project. So every two weeks, we tackled some new music, and recorded it and after those two weeks there abouts. And what we did is we had help choosing the music from the students. And we had help, we did it used the music. We layered the music with some sort of art video to try and redefine or enhance the meaning of whatever that video was. So it could have been anything, any art film that we found from the 20s, 1920s or the 80s, or what have you 00:38:00could have been black and white. It could have been experimental, it could have been abstract, it could have been animation, it was all it was all kinds of different things. And whatever that video was, we layered whatever music we thought would fit or redefine the meaning of that video. We layered them in then we uploaded them online. And so over the course of that year, we had 24 or whatever videos, 24 recording projects that we pursued which was unique in the nation, maybe the world of a project to tackle. We fit poetry sometimes with it. And again, it was collaborative. Ideally, it was always a collaborative project, seeking input from the musicians about what music and what video could speak together. Creating something new and split while sharing our music with the greater public while still being inventive and creative. We just did it in a 00:39:00different way knowing that we were not allowed to perform live and in public and we did not have the capacity yet either to stream or our concerts yet at that time. I don't think in fall 20' I think it was only in spring 21 Did we start to be able to stream live concerts if I'm not mistaken.

KC: I know you already said did you come back in person in fall 2020?

DCM: I believe so. Yeah.

KC: Okay. Just making sure.

DCM: I wasn't remembering Miss remembering my dates.

KC: But yeah, so yeah, I just didn't want to ask the question. You already said it. So your first in person performance back after COVID. When was it? Was it planned prior to COVID?

DCM: No, we scrapped everything that we had planned prior to COVID because we're just now able to perform it in that capacity. Again. Two years obviously after 00:40:00that our first live in person performance for an audience, I believe happened this year, fall 21. We took the orchestra down to underground Titan underground and played a concert. There, kind of part of the 150th anniversary of the university. And we involve a bunch of folks across campus, the wellness center, the counseling center, LGBTQ plus Resource Center, the art department, the campus historian, maybe I'm forgetting somebody, as well. But we had readings, we had a guided meditation. We had drawing just displays of imagery. But we were trying to bring music I intention was trying to bring music back to the campus to the community, not just in our hall, but as much in part of the campus 00:41:00community as a whole as possible. So but yeah, we didn't get we didn't start performing, again, to live audience until fall 21. If I'm not mistaken,

KC: Was there any special significance in the music you selected for that personal performance?

DCM: it didn't have anything to do with COVID. But they were significant because I was theming it around the 150th anniversary of the university. So I picked very old music that was reimagined and made relevant to today, more or less. And just like I think the mission of the university does that university was founded 150 years ago, but certainly we live and work and learn, of course, in a very different environment than we did 150 years ago. So every year we're reimagining this mission, making it relevant to us in our times, just like a composer might take a very old melody, reimagine it and make it make sense to the times that we 00:42:00live in today. So it had nothing to do with COVID. But it had to do with other events in the greater campus community.

KC: How were you feeling for this performance, what was on your mind planning for it, the day of that type of thing.

DCM: I was excited to get back to making music. That's one, all the students were excited to get back to making music. That's two. But three, we still had lots of protocol we had to follow, we still had to be distanced when we performed. We had to be masked when we performed. We needed everyone in the audience to be masked of course as well. And we had to either be fully vaccinated or receive that negative test within 48 hours of performance, if I'm not mistaken, maybe 72. But I think I had 40 hours of performance, have a negative test result. And the day of we needed all to do a wellness check. If 00:43:00anyone failed, then I had rapid response testing kits that I was to test all the students. We didn't require testing of the audience or anything like that, because they were part of the greater campus community. And so they follow the same guidelines that everyone else did on campus, either being vaccinated, or that negative test within that week.

KC: Do you know the exact date? Do you remember of that performance? Or the general time that it happened?

DCM: I don't remember the exact date offhand. I could find it, of course, but it was in October of 21.

KC: Okay. Um, how has your job changed because of this global pandemic? Essentially, what do you think COVID has changed permanently in regards to your work?

DCM: It has changed some things. I don't know if it's permanent or not. Well, we'll find out soon. So my main area is being a conductor as being an orchestra 00:44:00conductor. And so besides conducting orchestra here, I conduct professional orchestras in the world, with greater area. And so what I have discovered, not just with the concerts given here, but concerts given in the greater community across the state, certainly not elsewhere, that there is just not an audience anymore. The audience is dramatically reduced. It seems to me on average, we're about 60%, where we used to be unless a very special unique thing is part of that booking part of that concert part of that event or whatever. We offered for example, on campus the orchestra offered a Christmas concert in December of 2021. Whatever, six months ago, right, and, and normally we bring in 500 people 00:45:00maybe to that concert, maybe there was 100 people 200, 150 Or something in the audience, and it's a Christmas show people come out for Christmas shows my professional orchestra that I conduct, we've been selling at 60% capacity for all of our concerts all over last three concerts we've given since May of 2021. We start performing live again in May 2021. And has continued dramatically reduced numbers of people going to live concert events. However, I've gone to other things. Most recently, I saw Mamma Mia at the PAC up in Appleton was given some tickets to that, and that looked like it was almost a sold out house. So there are certain specific things that are bringing people back out, even masks even if they're requiring masks and vaccinations or whatever. There are things that are bringing people out. But it's not at the same level for anything 00:46:00besides that primo thing that's coming down. Not just speaking about the audience, obviously, and people attending, you know, things outside of their home as a just a new way of spending one's time streaming things or whatnot. But in addition to that, I'm tremendously scared about what's happening. And in particular, the middle schools, but also to the high schools, but less so. Meaning, all of typically when one picks up an instrument, they're in fifth or sixth grade. And they choose, you know, usually in their protypically in their high school to sing or play a wind or brass instrument, or play string instrument, joining the bands, the choir or the orchestra. And, and those 00:47:00numbers are terrible, terrible as being small, no one for two years, no one has played in these ensembles. Maybe they haven't run at all in the schools, maybe they've been cut since because they've not been able to run them because they're not curricular activities. In a lot of schools, music is not curricular. It's a it's an elective. And so in all those schools that it has been an elective, the numbers are very, very small, and it does just doesn't affect that year, it affects the next year in the next year in the next year. So all those fifth and sixth graders who weren't able to play music for perhaps two years now are now some through eighth graders, and they'll never go back and pick up that instrument, they've missed that window, you can't just start can just pick it up at any old time it it's part of it's part of the curriculum, you can't have someone's just beginning to play violin and someone has been playing violin for three years, it doesn't work that way. They can't play the same music, it's for 99% of the people out there. So that's going to affect every freshman, 00:48:00sophomore, junior senior and college student and for the rest of their lives, if they're going to continue to make music in any kind of capacity. They might love music, of course, they might go to concerts, maybe, but they have no experience themselves singing or playing an instrument. And so we've lost at perhaps two if not far more years of classes of students that will affect the rest of their lives and the rest of the rest of the lives around them. The numbers that everyone knows across the country, there it's what 15% or something like that less people are going to college every year, something like 30% or so or less going to community colleges every year. Four year versus two year obviously and even more percentages of those are musicians because they've not been able to practice music for their junior and senior year in order to go to college or choose to want to go to college and study music. So I'm very concerned and will continue to be concerned for at least another 10 years probably to our past this 00:49:00really hopefully, that music will return to any kind of normalcy in the normal track the normal trend the normal education of any kind of person learning about music for when I'd meet them. Again, it might be 10 years before I see a person applied to alright maybe seven or eight but um, before I see I hear someone apply to UWO to be a music major or even a non-major who's had a normal plan of study throughout middle school and high school. It's it's that's just all stopped and many people have stopped making music because they've not been able to or or it's been too cumbersome. So I think as anybody who cares about you musical education which of course I do, all of my efforts have been trying to 00:50:00support the middle schools, so they can be as healthy as they can. Now and starting next year. So that we can, well start over and start where we left off instead of having this void in our in our population.

CO: This is Callie Oltz interviewing Dr. Dylan Chmura-Moore for part two of the interview. In the fall of 2021, vaccines were readily available on campus and in fact, strongly advocated by administration and the CDC. What are your initial thoughts about the vaccines?

DCM: I signed up to be vaccinated on campus, the first day was advertised I think, I was like, the fourth person or something to rescind my vaccination on campus, who was able to get it when it was made available to the whole campus population. So I was very much in support of them very much welcomed them. And 00:51:00me and my family, who were able to at the time, got vaccinated as soon as possible. And boosted and all that.

CO: How much do you feel things are getting back to normal? And for the matter, what is normal to you?

DCM: Uh, yeah, I think we are getting back to normal. And I can only speak about music stuff, I guess. So we obviously the whole campus is no longer requiring a masking mandate. And so the orchestra has started rehearsing this past Monday, yesterday, after the mandate has been lifted, there are still some people were wearing masks in orchestra. But removing that mandate, it has a lot, and the other mandates that associated with it, excuse me, um, has allowed us to have a full orchestra, again, without any kind of mitigating policies. So right now the 00:52:00orchestra, for example, is preparing a big concert, April 27th to support, I don't know if supports is the right word, the invasion of Ukraine. And so I'm involving the English department. Hopefully the art department, a whole bunch of people across campus in Pali Sai and, and geography and foreign languages, to be part of this big event to have readings and a roundtable discussion. And we're playing music that's that comments on the invasion there. The war there, and we're involving alumni and faculty and current students, of course, and community members all coming together to play this concert to stand in solidarity for what's happening to Ukraine, standing with Ukraine, of course. And, and so this would not have been possible two months ago. And so for the 00:53:00first time, I see some sort of normalcy on the horizon for what I do on campus, simply because I can make music as I would have before the pandemic, with everyone on stage, unmasked if they needed to be not distanced. And I will imagine because of the type of concert it is, there will be a big audience contingent as well. We gave a concert a couple of weeks ago, and the theme was video game music. Because of that theme, we had a pretty good healthy sized audience, I don't know maybe 400 people, which is, which is a normal sized crowd, we would treat we'd probably pull in before the pandemic, again, a specialized theme, which probably pulled in more people than typical, but nonetheless, it felt more normal, we still didn't have people we're still masked though on stage, people were still distanced. And so it wasn't quite normal, quote unquote, yet, as it would have been pre pandemic. So now finally, we're 00:54:00coming back to normalcy as far as how we make music on campus. I'll say though, I'm conducting a concert, May 9, with my professional group. And because of when people were hired, we're still going to be masked and distanced. Because we know that if we remove that mask, and distance requirement for our even for the orchestra, there are members of the orchestra who still feel unsafe and who will not participate in that concert, since they agreed to play only on certain protocols that we're masked and distance. So it's not it's not quote unquote, normal yet, but it's, it's very close to that for me.

CO: What has living and working during the time of COVID taught you about yourself and others around you?

DCM: Hmm. Well, like I said, I'm in a very privileged place. My work didn't stop. It changed a little bit, of course, but it didn't stop. My wife's work didn't stop changed a little bit, sure, but it didn't stop. So I don't know what 00:55:00I what I really learned personally from the experience, although other than to continue to be as flexible and creative as possible with how I might with modes of delivery and planning ahead. I wish I could I had a better answer. But I think the sad answer is I'm not sure if I learned a whole lot.

CO: As long as you still have time, I would like to ask you a few questions about how you personally in your private life fared during COVID.

DCM: Of course

CO: Would that be okay. We were sent home a week before spring break, what did you do during spring break in March 2020.

DCM: My whole spring break was, was doing the tech work required on my computer to try and change my modes of delivery for the courses I was going to teach in April, for the rest of the semester. So it was, you know, working all day and night trying to, you know, put music and documents and reimagine assignments all 00:56:00online on canvas, which isn't the quickest thing in the world to do. It's just lots of logistics. So my life was nonstop doing that. And in addition to that, I have two young kids at the time they were two and six. Nope. At the time, they were one and five. I think in that that month, one and five. And so my son's daycare closed my daughter's school, no, she was still in pre K, I think I'm trying to remember exactly when she was anyhow, I think both of them were at home. I guess that's the point. And so in addition to trying to do the work, obviously, I needed to I was being full time caregiver to my young kids, which is a time commitment in upon itself. So there was less sleep, more stress, and 00:57:00they were watching a lot of television.

CO: Do you remember how long you thought the university would be closed?

DCM: I thought it would be closed just until the end of the semester as what my assumption was at the start, Again, I mentioned that I thought that they closed a week too soon, when it was whatever that week was in March when I got the news, like ah you can't just wait another week? Come on. So in the moment, I thought they would just be closed throughout the throughout the term. And I thought everyone would be in person again, in fall of 21. That was my assumption. Because how long would this thing last? Not as long as I thought it not as long as it has. So I thought was only going to be closed for another month or two or whatever that was?

CO: Where were you living in with whom and how was COVID protocols dealt with in your home?

DCM: Again, super privileged. I have a spouse and two kids. So I was never alone. I was never want for living situations, I didn't have to change my living 00:58:00situation at all, as I mentioned, super privileged and all that. I slept in my own bed. And so did my kids. And no one came and lived with me. And I didn't have to change that at all. So again, super privileged with all that stuff. So what was the question? Again, I want make sure I get all of it.

CO: How are the protocols dealt with protocols?

DCM: Protocols, Thank you. Um, because of the musical piece, I was reading so much about all of the aerosol dispersion as being the most significant thing. So we never sprayed down packages, we never got food delivered it and didn't touch it until it was left out untouched outside or anything like that. We still went to the grocery store. I think the only difference was we were masked I went to the grocery store by myself or something instead of bringing the young kids because my one-year-old wasn't going to wear masking my five year old wasn't so keen on it either. So the only difference was, we didn't we weren't venturing 00:59:00out in the world. We were staying at home. And again, I wasn't worried for my or my family's health. So we weren't living in fear. We weren't living in real isolation. We were outside unmasked, walking up and down the streets. We never we never wore masks outside. And I don't know if that was because of all the aerosol studies that I was reading. Or just the underlying health of, of my family or the fact that I live in town but and lived in town at the time. But we weren't living in an apartment complex or anything with population density of any sort, which I have lived in the past in big cities. And so we felt very safe outside. We felt very safe in our home. And I hate to say it but we lived a normal life. Except we didn't go out as much and when we did, more or less maybe went by ourselves and I wore a mask.


CO: Was there much friction? Or was it all agreement within your family?

DCM: Yeah, my wife and I, more or less see eye to eye on all those kinds of view all kinds of points. And so we, we supported each other and what we did.

CO: With everything that happened and so quickly, how were you feeling emotionally? And how are the people around you coping?

DCM: Um, ah, I know, my parents were in isolation, through isolation, they're, you know, relatively elderly. I think my dad had turned 80 or 81 there about some time that year turn 81 in 20'. Yeah, I, he turned 81 Later on that year, and my mom is an early 70s don't mean, we can do the math, just let's say that, um, and she, they are not together. And so they were alone and well, didn't see 01:01:00me and didn't see their grandchildren for over a year. Yeah, well over a year and didn't travel. And I know, they took it very hard being so alone being so isolated. I had three other people in my house. I wanted to be alone. You know, it's, it was the reverse problem. We all needed our space. But we coped well, our psychology was good. Again, we were we were living cushy lives in comparison to many, many, many, many, maybe the majority of other people in the world. I don't know if it was the majority or not, but probably. And we were very cognizant of that we're very aware of the cushy, cushy place, we found ourselves in a safe place. We found ourselves and. And so we were well, we were well, as was I get all that question? I'm not sure.

CO: Yeah.

DCM: Okay.

CO: Have you been able to see your parents?

DCM: I have. I think I visited them both in the summer after when we were able 01:02:00to get vaccinated. 21 I think right. Early 21? I think. So we, we I saw them both the summer of 21. They had both been vaccinated. They had both been maybe double backs. No, not yet. They just had one dose I think by then I'm not sure. No, they're both vaccinated because they're older, like they could get it sooner than I could, if I remember correctly. So we visited in them that summer, they did not drive here. They felt unsafe driving. So I remember my mom when she finally came here for the first time they still live in Ohio. She was very fearful even using the gas station on are on the way here. So my dad still hasn't visited since basically staying at his house for the last two years. Yeah.

CO: So going back to school and teaching Did you have a special room that you would use when you teach or when you taught?


DCM: Yes, as I mentioned, when I gave private lessons, I had a bigger space that where I could be 15 feet away from another person. So all my lessons were never given in my studio where they typically were, there had to be given in a big classroom. All my lecture classes were in that had 50 people in the past. Now we're in pit style classes that could have 200 or whatever, you know, so everyone was spaced out with the plastic bags between the seats. I wonder whatever happened to those plastic bags? I bet they were none of them were recycled. And orchestra, we rehearse in the same spot in Music Hall, which we typically wear but because of the numbers of us onstage, we could be spread out and be safe. So yes, I was in unique spaces for my for much of my teaching.

CO: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

DCM: Nope. Thank you.

CO: All right. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW Oshkosh.