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Making Music During a Pandemic

January 13, 2021

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Teaching in a Covid environment is difficult, but being new can come with a whole new plate of challenges. For new Band Director Burton Hable, the difficulty lies in a teaching subject which also prevents unique social distancing challenges.

Hable was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but he grew up in Ankeny, Iowa. He graduated from high school, then attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois, and Boston University in Massachusetts.

Although originally he went to school to be an acoustical engineer, Hable ended up changing his major to music education, earning a Bachelor of Music Education from Iowa State University and a Masters in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music. He is currently working towards his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Education from Boston University. “I am finishing up my exams and preparing to write my dissertation,” he said.

Before coming to Fluvanna, Hable taught 9–12th grade band at West High School in Waterloo, Iowa, for three years, and 6–12th grade band at Centennial High School in Ankeny, Iowa, for five years.

Hable believes all students can and should learn to communicate and understand emotion through music, “band just happens to be one vehicle through which we can accomplish that.” He also believes that the way we have traditionally taught band in the United States is very limiting. “I want my students to develop skills so they can create and play the music in which they are interested, not just the music that ‘tradition’ tells us we should study in band,” he said.

Even during this pandemic, Hable is working to make do with what he has. “Remotely, we cannot play ‘together’ and hear one another. The latency in our internet connections prevents our sounds from syncing up. Instead, I have my virtual students mute their microphones and play along at home while I stream a metronome or reference recording from my computer,” he said. As for providing direct feedback on students’ progress and abilities, Hable has them send in videos of themselves playing.

For in-person classes, Hable takes several precautions to make sure students are safe. Examples include musician masks, which allow students to play their instruments while wearing masks, bell covers and instrument bags to prevent the spread of aerosols while playing, and wet pads to collect excess moisture from instrument water keys. Students are also required to keep 10 feet apart. “The full marching band barely fits in the auditorium at this spacing, and I can only fit eight other people in the band room safely,” Hable added.

Hable’s wife, Chloe, is a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Virginia. They have a 2-year-old cockapoo named Toby, and they enjoy cooking and riding their bikes.


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