Newsletter: April 2020

Due to the spread of COVID-19 across the country, the past few weeks have been a challenging time for everybody. We, the Musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, are especially heartbroken to not be performing at the Hilbert Circle Theatre and look forward to the day when we can return and perform beautiful music again for our patrons. In the meantime, we are working hard finding creative ways to continue to serve the Indianapolis community.

Many of us have recorded videos in our homes, sharing our music with all who want to listen. These performances are available on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We are aiming to post these on a daily basis, so please follow and like our pages to be sure that you always have access to our music!

We also want to thank Indy Star reporters Domenica Bongiovanni and David Lindquist for including us in their rundown of the arts entertainment that is still going on in our city.

In addition to the increased number of performances we provide on our social media feeds, we are also planning to continue the regular content that we have been providing this season. As you may know, on Mondays, we shine a spotlight on an orchestra musician, interviewing them about their lives, both musical and otherwise. You can expect to learn all kinds of interesting facts about our members: how they chose their instrument, where they did their musical training, their favorite pieces of music, and other general information about them. Just last week we featured Assistant Principal Cello Perry Scott.

Although we’re all respecting the stay-at-home order, many of us continue to teach lessons to students through online applications. We asked Assistant Principal Bassist Bob Goodlett to share some of his experience with distance teaching:

Social distancing and the stay-at-home order due to COVID-19 has impacted almost every area of our lives, and private lessons for music students are no exception. Instead of teaching lessons face-to-face I now find myself teaching across the internet, which seems to have positives and negatives.

I connect from my home studio through my laptop computer and a separate camera/microphone, and the students tend to use a variety of devices: cell phones, laptops, iPads, etc. Since most of the internet productivity applications are geared towards voices, they generally try to suppress background noise. Sometimes, music is treated as “noise” and it will be automatically dampened by the program. And sometimes (especially during heavy internet traffic) the audio and video fail to synchronize. This can be very frustrating when trying to teach!

For the best possible sound quality, I have required students to first make a recording of their musical material and then upload it to YouTube or some other cloud service. This way I get a much better audio experience. I have also been video recording myself playing the same material that the student is playing so that they get the best audio quality of what they are working on. After reviewing the student’s video I write comments back via email so they can read them before we start an online lesson. This procedure really produces the best results, even if the instruction is somewhat less immediate.

While teaching online has its moments of frustration, there have been some positive side-effects. The students are now forced to think and analyze for themselves more. And by making a video to send to me they now have to consider how they are playing a little more closely before they push the “send” button.

Still, there are problems that cannot be overcome, such as when I really feel like I need a “hands on” approach and must resort to very descriptive language and visual posturing to show things about the physical setup of playing. This is particularly important for the younger students.

In all, I am grateful for the opportunity to continue teaching my students!

Despite the current Covid-19 situation, we are committed to serving the Indianapolis community in as many safe ways as possible. Prior to the stay-at-home order, many of us volunteered at local agencies dedicated to serving the community.

Roger Roe (Assistant Principal Oboe and English Horn) helped to screen potential blood donors at a Red Cross blood drive, and Conrad Jones (Principal Trumpet) and Austin Huntington (Principal Cello) gave blood at the event. We asked Austin to tell us about the experience:

On March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, I became a first time blood donor for the Red Cross! In a time filled with unprecedented uncertainty, I was looking for any way possible to help, however big or small. 

I was honestly a little nervous at first, primarily since I now have an aversion to going outside during the COVID-19 pandemic, but I was immediately greeted by the smiling faces of our assistant principal oboist, Roger Roe, who was standing outside the front door of the Red Cross office, screening potential donors, and Brit Rothstein (Assistant Principal clarinetist Sam Rothstein’s wife), who was checking people in and taking initial temperatures. I found donating blood is one of the easiest, safest and most essential ways to help during this time, especially since there is a serious shortage of blood and a great need for it. 

The whole process leading up to the donation put me at ease, from the initial screening with Roger to having my temperature taken and hands sanitized, as well as practicing social distancing while sitting in the waiting room. I was also surprised at how many people signed up to donate, though I am sure many had the same thought as I did: the need for help far outweighed any fear.

The blood draw itself was a breeze. I am no fan of needles, but the nurses in charge of drawing blood were incredibly warm and welcoming, so much so that I had to ask if the donation had begun when it was already a quarter of the way complete. After about ten minutes, the donation was complete and I was rewarded with a smile, a thank you, and a bag of nutter butters. 

During a time of such unpredictability, it is easy to feel helpless in the face of current events. Donating blood was such a wonderful experience that I know will directly help the people who need it the most. I am already counting down the days until I am able to donate again!

From left to right: Roger Roe, Brit Rothstein, Conrad Jones and Austin Huntington. Note that this occurred prior to widespread social distancing, even though it was practiced inside the Red Cross facility.

If you would like to donate blood please go to to find a blood drive near you.

In March, we also continued our relationship with Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. Mary Anne Dell’Aquila, Acting Associate Principal Second violinist, spent some time in the warehouse and shares this experience:

I volunteered at Gleaners Food Bank for a 3 hour shift last in mid-March, spending the time bagging up fruit for distribution. I was amazed by the size of the warehouse and all the work that is involved in getting food to the hungry. I was also overwhelmed by the number of cars lined up at the drive thru where the food was distributed.

The workers at Gleaners are very friendly and helpful. I was pretty tired after my shift was over but felt very good about spending that time helping others in these uncertain times. Upon exiting the drive thru many cars slowed down long enough to thank us for the work we were doing even though as packers we were not involved in the actual food distribution.

With many people living paycheck to paycheck and now facing a crisis I felt grateful to be able to help those in need.

Mary Anne Dell’Aquila volunteering at Gleaners

If you are interested in volunteering at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana you can learn more about the process by visiting this link to the Gleaners website.

Please note: since the situation regarding Coronavirus in Indiana is fluid, many of these volunteer organizations we have been working with have changed their policies and their availability. If you are interested in working with any of them, please contact them through their websites to see what opportunities they may have.

The Musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra want to remain committed members of the Indianapolis community, but we will only do so in a way that is safe and respectful of the orders of Governor Holcomb and the State of Indiana.