From the Director: Our Return for Fall 2020

 Last updated 08/18/2020 

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Greetings from the School of Music. What an unusual summer it has been. I look out the window of my home and see normalcy, but circumstances beyond the weather are far from normal; there is a cloud of uncertainty over education worldwide. The fall semester is a thousand piece puzzle with many same-shape, same-color pieces. In the Roadmap to Fall 2020, LSU Interim President Galligan makes four fundamental points. Consider these being part of the frame of the puzzle we are piecing together.

"Things will look a little different on campus, but that’s okay.”

“Together, we will navigate the challenges [of COVID-19].”

“Know that we will still continue to provide our students with the quality educational experience that we have pledged to give them.”

“As we move forward, safety is our guidepost and number one priority.”

During May, June, and July in the College of Music & Dramatic Arts (CMDA) and the School of Music, we worked non-stop getting ready, setting more straight-edged puzzle pieces in place. We continue to read, listen, and learn—collecting the data-based information upon which we make decisions. In the context of music performance, there are, for example, highly relevant research results coming out of the University of Colorado-Boulder, Colorado State University, and the University of Minnesota.

With August upon us, we continue to answer important questions about how we will approach music-making, teaching, and learning during the fall. As a faculty and staff, we are working to increase our stamina for operating in the discomfort of not knowing everything. Despite good planning, there will be some situations during the semester, even some unsettling situations, requiring us (and students) to figure it out on the fly. But know this: No one needs to do it alone. We will pool our resources, and work through these hard puzzle pieces.

Bottom line, we vow to maximize teaching and learn opportunities in the context of our music degree programs, while prioritizing the health and safety of our CMDA family members—the students, faculty, staff, and community. Scroll down to monitor our information and updates and know that all decisions are subject to change as we stay tuned to the changing landscape we live in. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your flexibility.


James Byo

Director, School of Music
Carl Prince Matthies Professor of Music


Fall 2020 Questions & Answers

 Last updated 08/18/2020 


We take seriously CDC and LSU Guidelines for health and safety. Everyone will do their part. Masks are required while inside and walking between the music buildings (with exceptions in music performance). A distance of at least 6 feet from other humans will be maintained at all times. Common space furniture will be positioned to discourage congregating. We will promote hand-washing and increase awareness of surface-touching (music stands, chairs, desks, door knobs). Students, faculty, and staff will be asked to clean surfaces before and after use.

These safety measures change the look of campus; they limit some of what we do in the SoM; but, importantly, they do not prevent safe in-person music-making, teaching and learning. As such, we will make intelligent use of our large classrooms and rehearsal halls, outside spaces with tent coverage, and the spacious Union Ballroom.

(More information about our School's specific buildings is available further down this page.)

Class Instruction Changes

  • Masks worn at all times
  • In-person classes only in spaces that allow for 6-foot distancing
  • Hybrid classes combine in-person meetings with online meetings.
  • 100% online class options.
  • Singing and playing wind instruments will not be allowed in class unless certain safety measures can be met (in large rooms or out of doors, allowing greater than 6-foot distancing, and requiring attention to time spent in rehearsal and no-use time between room uses).

Faculty are considering a range of options that allow for safe classes. Traditional classes will be offered in three forms: In-person, hybrid (combination of in-person and remote), and 100% remote. With the in-person approach and our concern for 6-foot distancing, we will operate at significantly under 50% room capacity. Larger classes could be hybrids, offering in-person instruction combined with synchronous or asynchronous remote instruction. For skills-based classes we will be responsive to the challenges of instrument playing or singing, both of which put greater restrictions on in-person instruction.

Changes to Skills-based Courses:

  • Aural skills: online only.
  • Secondary instrument classes:
    • MUS 2300/1, 2, & 4 – hybrid
    • MUS 2300/3 – online
  • Class piano: both synchronous.
    • MUS 1130 - hybrid
    • MUS 1132 - online

Whatever the mode of delivery, our faculty aim to deliver on promises that our teaching will be personalized and more discerning than ever before, that we will continue to refine best practices for student engagement and accountability, and that students will feel “connected” via an amazing LSU network of national/international luminaries and alumni.

Class Piano

Instruction in class piano (MUS 1132) will be in online-only format, synchronous. Instruction in class piano (MUS 1130) will be in the hybrid format. Each MUS 1130 section will be will be split in two groups of no more than 8 students, each meeting once per week in person. This will allow for social distancing in the piano lab. Each student will be assigned to the same instrument. Asynchronous tutorials will constitute the other class experience each week. Students will be expected, of course, to practice either on their own personal keyboards or in MDA practice rooms. For access and safety in the MDA, students will sign up for 30-minute practice sessions. This will be your assigned time and will be consistent throughout the semester. Whether in the piano lab or an MDA practice room, students will clean the instruments before and after use according to tightly controlled protocols. Facial coverings are required at all times. To reduce handling of headphones, we are requiring students to bring their own “plug-in” headphones (earbuds with cord and attached jack or larger over-ear headset).


Faculty are considering a range of options that allow for safe one-on-one lessons. They prefer to teach in-person or in some combination of in-person and online, but they know from their experiences last spring that online lessons can be substantive and authentic. Voice, woodwind, and brass lessons will not be taught in faculty offices/studios. Instead, they will take place in large spaces (classrooms, rehearsal halls) with distancing greater than 6 feet and “wait time” of 30 minutes between lessons. String, piano, and percussion lessons will be in studio with distancing, masks, and wait time of 30 minutes between lessons.

Concert Ensembles

The health of our students, faculty, and staff remains a top priority. We are closely monitoring the data and information from the state. In addition, there are several important studies specifically focused on the performing arts that are currently being conducted. While the results of those studies have not yet been fully reported, we will make adjustments to our rehearsal and performance protocols based on those scientific studies.

Large ensembles will begin the semester in an online format. Our ensemble directors have been working both individually and collectively to create a robust and engaging curriculum that will explore new repertoire and invite musical experts from across the world to regularly engage with our students. They have also been working together to create new experiences that work across all ensembles and will provide unique opportunities for the fall semester.

We will evaluate this situation regularly, and if and when we are able to move to a face-to-face format (which is the intention of our ensemble directors), we will do so with caution and following the guidelines that have been put in place for performing arts ensembles. We have secured larger rehearsal spaces and outdoor classrooms, and we will use those spaces, as safety protocol allows. As we move through the semester, it may be that some ensembles will be able to meet in person before other ensembles. We will use the data from the performing arts studies to make those determinations.

For those students who wish to have an in-person collaborative musical experience, we will have an option for students to choose a small chamber music ensemble experience. More details will come as we have them, but we will use the larger spaces and outdoor classrooms for those smaller ensembles, and we will abide by all current safety protocols, including masks and proper social distancing. As you know, this remains a fluid situation, and we will regularly assess and update this document as information becomes available. 

Masking: Mask wearing is required in all concert ensemble settings, and each student will wear a mask before, during, and after rehearsal. The only time the mask will not be worn is during actual times of individual performance. For the safety and respect of other students, the mask will be removed immediately prior to playing and replace immediately following. The use of bell covers is being considered by applied teachers and ensemble directors.

Amount of rehearsal time in one sitting: With in-person ensemble contact being delayed until 2-3 weeks into the semester and considering variability among our large room spaces (including out of doors), we will delay a decision about amount of rehearsal time to be permitted in one sitting. Several weeks from now we may be in a position to act on more relevant and reliable information.

Tiger Marching Band

While we await decisions on the 2020 football season, we are certain that if there is football, Tiger Band will be part of it. During the school year, Tiger Band will proceed in a mixed hybrid model of in-person and virtual components. Multiple considerations are being made following all university and CDC safety protocols. The athletic department has been steadfast in their commitment to the participation of the band, and multiple scenarios are being planned while we await final word from them.

In-person Preseason Band Camp has been cancelled. Virtual music auditions begin on August 22. All regular class meetings during the semester will be held outdoors. Color Guard and Golden Girls rehearsals will be outdoors except for occasional use of large indoor spaces where adequate spacing is available. The band has invested in various sanitizing solutions and safety equipment in conjunction with the athletic department, and plans for different rehearsal models will be finalized once we know the full extent of participation.


The Turner Fischer Center for Opera is embracing the new opportunities that healthy distancing and hybrid teaching will provide. In an academic year that will feature Zelinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragodie, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Moravec and Campbell’s The Shining, the fall semester focuses on Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, sung in French. It will be produced by audio recording the complete opera featuring a newly-created orchestral reduction by Prof. Borowitz, and utilizing a hired, professional orchestra. Prof. McDonough will use that soundtrack to stage and film the opera for ultimate release later in the semester. This approach will not only afford students the chance to learn and perform this work SAFELY with an orchestra; it will expose them to the ins and outs of up-close videography and how to successfully lip-sync to their own tracks. By offering online, in-person, and hybrid options for musical and dramatic coachings, the curriculum will be individually crafted to insure students learn how to successfully and thoroughly prepare a role.


For Fall 2020, the Office of Student Success is not providing in-person advising. We are assisting students by email, virtual drop-ins, and scheduled virtual appointments. CMDA students can check-in for a virtual drop-in or schedule a virtual appointment through the Navigate Student app. Please make sure you have the latest version of the app (August 13 or later) in order to have full access to virtual resources. Students can also visit the LSU Navigate Website to check-in. Appointments are scheduled according to Central Standard Time.

More Information About Virtual Advising

Practice Rooms

Students will be urged to practice at their residences. This is not always possible or practical; students rely on our buildings for practice space. Use of our 46 practice rooms will be tightly controlled. Each applied faculty member will be assigned 2 or 3 practice rooms and be responsible for scheduling access to those assigned spaces. E.g. the flute professor will work out the practice room plan for all flute majors. The same group of students will practice in the same room over the course of the day. Practice time will be limited. To allow for air exchange, 45 minutes of non-use will occur between practice times. Sanitization materials will be provided.

School-owned Instruments

A new system features an electronic Instrument Request Form. Instrument pick up times will be reserved. Distribution will be individualized and efficient. Masks will be worn by all parties. 6-foot distancing will be observed. There will be no clustering of people and minimal wait time.


Brass Instruments will be disassembled and all parts sprayed with disinfectant. We have two of these products and both are highly effective. One of them is military grade and is safe for food service as well, the other is hospital grade. The parts will then be washed and reassembled. The mouthpieces will be sanitized with either one of these products or an alcohol-based mouthpiece spray. The cleaning utensils and brushes will be cleaned with the same sprays as well as a UVC light.

For Woodwind Instruments, the keys will be removed and sanitized where applicable with our spray and the bodies will be washed out and cleaned with the spray. The sanitation of the pads and keys will also be supplemented with a UVC light. Just like with the brass instruments, the implements used in cleaning will either be single use or will be sanitized with the sprays and UVC light. Mouthpieces will be cleaned using the same sprays.

String Instruments and Percussion Instruments present fewer hygienic issues that can be solved simply by the player washing their hands for 20 seconds before and after use. Percussionists will use their personal sticks, mallets, and beaters. We will use isopropyl alcohol and water mix to clean violin, viola, cello and bass strings and fingerboards.

For the many Pianos that reside in rehearsal halls, classrooms, and practice rooms, much of their cleaning/disinfecting will be handled by their users. Hydrogen peroxide-based wipes will be provided to wipe keys before and after use. There can be no moisture that drips between keys. For all instruments, there will be no immediate-turnaround distribution or use of instruments, in that wait time is an effective sanitizer. Research shows that viruses have a limited lifespan on hard surfaces.


To reduce the potential spreading the virus, certain changes to locker use policies and practice are being implemented. Lockers should be used only by students who have no other means for storing or transporting an instrument. The practice of sharing lockers or locker contents (e.g., instruments) is prohibited. Students should practice proper social distancing during locker use—if someone is using their locker within six feet of your locker, wait at an appropriate distance until they are finished and cleared of the space before approaching your locker. Students are encouraged to sanitize the contact surfaces of the locker before and after each use.

Building Conditions

Campus buildings officially open on August 17. The main offices of the MDA and SOM buildings will open as follows: The office entry doors will be locked, but office attendants will be visible. Signage will indicate how to reach the office attendant by phone. This way, we expect to limit human contact, but meet the needs of students, faculty, and visitors. 

Signage will direct building occupants relative to traffic patterns, classroom and practice room occupancy. Occupants should be alert to ingress and egress as it relates to the building, hallways, stairwells, and elevators. The furniture in shared spaces (e.g., the lobby) will be re-arranged to discourage congregating. Each practice room will be equipped with one chair, one stand, one piano bench, waste can, hand sanitizer, and hydrogen peroxide-based wipes. One of everything, is meant to disallow more than one person per practice room. These conditions will be checked each day. The University has pledged “enhanced cleaning,” consistent with CDC recommendations.

There will be no access to “lunch” rooms where we have been accustomed to using refrigerator and microwave. High touch spaces, for example, copy machines, will be monitored and frequently wiped down.

In music, with wind production and performance being a complicating factor, we have been obsessed with disciplined on/off masking or special masking (as it fits with singing and playing wind instruments), physical distancing, wait time between lessons, practice sessions, and classes, and same student/same practice room use, for contact tracing. Moving voice and wind lessons out of applied faculty offices and into large spaces remains an important safety decision.

Fall Schedule Adjustments

  • First day of classes - August 24
  • Fall holiday canceled
  • No in-person classes/experiences after Thanksgiving Holiday (Nov. 25-27). All remaining classes and final exams held online.

Common Student Questions

If I am uncomfortable with in-person instruction, can I take everything online? 

Students can opt to participate remotely/virtually. Students who are unable to attend in-person classes will receive accommodations to ensure they are receiving comparable educational experiences. Faculty and graduate assistants are prepared to instruct students who are required to self-isolate at any point in the semester. Live streaming and/or a lecture capture software will be universally implemented.

Can I defer a semester or a year and keep my scholarship? 

All questions about financial aid/TOPS/University scholarships must be answered by the LSU Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships. CMDA Interim Assistant Dean Amy Smith is the best contact for complete information.

Can I defer a semester or a year and keep my assistantship? 

If you wish to defer the start of your degree program to the spring, your assistantship will begin in the spring. By Graduate School policy, any deferral to fall 2021 will required re-application to the University.

Can I put a “pause” on graduate school for a semester or a year and keep my assistantship? 

A student can take a semester off, even take up to three semesters off. However, when they have not enrolled or been away for one year, they have to reapply in order to return to the program. An assistantship will not be put on hold; assistantship renewal will be considered but not guaranteed.

There are some important things to consider for doctoral students. They have a 7-year time limit and must be continuously enrolled after they successfully pass their general defense. Master’s students should keep in mind that their coursework cannot be older than five years at the time they submit their degree audit.

Can assistantship duties be covered and my assistantship remain valid if I am not “in residence” during 2020-2021?

If you wish to start or continue a degree program in the fall, and you are in the US and have the necessary documentation, you can work remote from LSU and keep your assistantship, with the approval of your supervisor.

If you are outside the US, you cannot work remotely, regardless of status. Without the capacity to fulfill the assistantship, it is not valid.