Combining online and in-person rehearsals

Now that your group can once again meet in person, it’s important to continue thinking about including all your members. Some of your members will be raring to get back to face-to-face rehearsals and concerts. Some, however, might not be able to attend, or might be struggling with technology, and these challenges could result in them feeling left out and excluded from your group.

Careful planning can help deal with this. Consulting all your members will help you to consider everyone’s needs as you work out a group dynamic that makes everyone feel included. This may mean that your group might find itself in a situation where you deliver a mix of online and in-person rehearsals, so that everyone can benefit. 

So what are the barriers to inclusion that you need to be aware of as you begin to return to face-to-face meetings? And how can you overcome them so that all of your members feel able and welcome to join in with your activities at a level that feels right for them?

Individual barriers

There may be many different reasons why people perceive a barrier to taking part that might have not occurred to you. Make sure you are consulting all of your members to ensure you have considered all of these. 

If you are planning to return to in-person activity, risk assessing and writing procedures should be done in consultation with members. This gives you the opportunity to ask people for their suggested solutions to their own challenges. You don’t need to ask people to disclose personal information, just ask them what you could do to help them feel safe. Making Music has a survey you can use when planning in-person activity.

Potential barriers

  1. People aren’t confident or able to get online
  2. People are shielding or self-isolating, or living with someone who is shielding and aren’t able to meet up in person
  3. People may be anxious about safety, and although they are not shielding as such, might not be sure if it’s safe enough for them personally yet to meet up face to face

How can you overcome these barriers?

1.    Help everyone to be able to access rehearsals online

  • For people that are less confident with how to use technology or the internet, you could provide telephone or in-person support to help people get online – talking them through the process of accessing your chosen platform (e.g. Zoom) and the different features you may be using during the rehearsal.
  • Plan an online session that isn’t a rehearsal, but is specifically just for people to try logging on, experimenting with the different features and asking any questions.
  • Record online rehearsals for people to watch – either so that they can see how they will work (which might help them feel more confident to attend) or so that they can benefit from the rehearsal in their own time. Make these recordings easily available. YouTube can be accessed through a smart TV or you could burn DVDs and deliver them to people’s homes. 
  • Buddy people up – someone who is technology resistant could pair up with someone who is more confident. If social distancing restrictions allowed, they could be in the same household for the rehearsal. All the same measures as for in-person rehearsals would need to be followed, including social distancing and hygiene measures.

2.    Once everyone is able to get online, make sure you include people who are shielding or social distancing, and aren’t able to meet up in person

  • Each rehearsal could be delivered twice, once in person and once online, at separate times. People could choose which one to join (or could join both). Delivering each rehearsal twice could mean paying the MD more – you will need to consider this.
  • Think about what support you can provide to people who can’t attend:

     - Rehearsal tracks
     - Notes from rehearsals
     - Recommended recordings to listen to
     - Set up a buddy system – someone who was at the rehearsal could visit someone who wasn’t in their home and go through it with them. As mentioned above, the same measures as for in-person rehearsals would need to be followed, including social distancing and hygiene measures.

  • Record your live rehearsals for people to watch at a later date. Recording is easier than livestreaming, but means that people miss out on the feel of joining in live. However, for people joining online, it is much nicer to join in with a recording of your actual group playing rather than just your MD singing or playing a part on their own, or of a backing track that your MD has put together themselves. Ask people how they can easily watch recordings to make these accessible. 
  • Livestream your rehearsal. 

There are two ways to do this:

A.   People at home can be playing along at home in real time but not interacting with the people in the physical room.
B.   People at home can interact with the rehearsal, for example by asking questions.

There are different issues you will need to think about, depending on which of these options you choose.

Issues for both Option A & Option B

  • Do you have enough data / wifi access at your rehearsal venue to enable you to livestream?
  • Who is going to ‘look after’ the livestream? They would be responsible for getting it set up, sharing any joining instructions with members joining remotely or troubleshooting tech issues.
  • What equipment will you need? Is any of this already at the venue, or does equipment need to be bought in or hired. Does it need to be PAT tested? Who will be responsible for looking after it?
  • How will your MD need to adapt what they are doing to help people joining in virtually? Do they need to: 

     - be more specific about where to go from and where to stop
     - be more descriptive about what they want using words rather than gestures if not everyone is able to physically see them
     - repeat any questions that have come from members in the room to ensure they are audible to everyone?

  • Make sure you explain to members in the room that there are also members joining online, so that everyone is aware that this is happening.

Issues for Option B

  • How will your MD take questions and requests from people online? You might want to nominate a specific person to keep an eye on this and ask the questions on behalf of members who are accessing the rehearsal remotely.

3. Include people who would like to come back to face to face but are reluctant or anxious about how safe it is

  • When you are risk assessing and writing procedures, remember to consider everyone’s perceived barriers. This might mean you being more cautious than guidance allows so that as many people as possible feel safe. For example, you might decide to restrict the number of people that are allowed to attend a rehearsal even further than is laid down by guidance. 
  • Make the procedures you have put in place to keep everyone safe freely available and easy to understand. Think about how you can communicate the measures clearly and accessibly; a video of someone explaining them or a document with images may help. Make sure everyone can contact the organiser to ask questions or request additional measures or support.
  • If you’ve had to reduce the number of people able to attend a rehearsal, think about how you will share the places out so everyone who wants to come along gets a turn. Can you repeat a rehearsal for different groups on the same evening or another day? Will you rotate which group attends fortnightly? How will you organise these groups so you have the right balance of parts or instrumentation needed?
  • Before you move back to your regular venue, could you have people in groups of 4-6 across several different houses all joining in via Zoom? This would give people the experience of making music with others, as well as being connected to the wider group.
  • Record one in-person rehearsal for people to watch, showing how the room is laid out, how people are behaving and the measures you’ve put in place. If they can see for themselves what the rehearsal physically looks like this might make them feel safer and more confident to attend.
  • Think about how you will deal with people who are feeling more confident and won’t co-operate with the measures you’ve put in place. Make it clear that non-compliance will result in people being refused entry to rehearsals. This will help other people feel reassured that rules will be adhered to/enforced. 
  • For members who are really missing the social contact but don’t feel safe with coming back together to make music because of the potential risk, you might think about organising some non-musical group socials. These could be in smaller groups if needed.

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.