It is a new season for the Goshen College choirs, and with that comes a mask-optional year. While it is up to the individual to decide if they will wear a mask during choir rehearsals this semester, the option of going unmasked is opening up new doors for the choral department. There is excitement for a new year, new events and new choral members joining, but, most of all there is a general boost in confidence. 

“It is night and day,” said Dr. Scott Hochstetler, professor of music and the director of Chamber Choir and Vox Profundi, in regards to student’s confidence levels now that they can be unmasked.

Dr. Hochstetler also remarked that it is easier for students to sustain breath throughout pieces, especially difficult ones. Furthermore, the students are more comfortable as they are able to hear their fellow choral members more clearly.

Additionally, Scott notes, singing unmasked improves the choirs’ sound and diction. While the choir department has utilized singing masks for the past two years, which members are still able to do if they feel more comfortable, there is the best quality of diction in mask-free singing. 

Dr. H. Roz Woll, assistant professor of music and director of Voices of the Earth, said: “There is a lot of excitement this semester, but we are committed to creating an atmosphere where if someone wants to wear a mask they are completely able to do so.” Dr. Woll added that her priority is “first and foremost health and following the school’s policies.” 

It is a return to previous years to have the option of not wearing a mask. Dr. Woll said: “It’s a different experience with a mask. You can still communicate by singing, but you’re missing more than half the picture.” Being able to see a person’s whole face allows us to truly gauge their expressions and emotions. 

Despite any setbacks that may have arisen in the past two years, the choral department feels an air of excitement for their upcoming events. Moreover, the department is pleased to have a full audience once more. 

Mask usage is optional for audience members this semester, too. “I expect this fall to be right back at capacity,” Dr. Hochstetler said.

The choral department’s debut this semester will take place on Saturday, October 8 for Goshen College’s Homecoming Gala. The event is set to bring together current students, staff and alumni.