2021 Spring Semester Update

January 14, 2021

Dear Eastman faculty and staff,

With the end of winter break rapidly approaching, we wanted to take this opportunity to share an update on plans and expectations for the upcoming spring semester:


Student Return to Campus

Students have been sent detailed information for their January return, including the latest New York State quarantine requirements, which you can find on the Eastman COVID website: https://www.esm.rochester.edu/restart/spring-2021-quarantine-and-testing-faq/.  


Spring 2021 Dates and Scheduling

Dates: The spring semester begins on Monday, February 1 and the last day of classes is Friday, May 7.  Saturday, May 8 and Sunday, May 9 are reading days, and final exams run from Monday, May 10 through Friday, May 14.  The full spring semester calendar can be found on the Registrar’s website

Final Exams: The Registrar’s office will not be scheduling final exams for individual classes, so instructors should make their own arrangements for finals during the final exam period. 

Wellness Days: There will be no spring break this term, but the University has set aside Wednesday, March 3 and Tuesday, March 30 as “wellness days.”  There will be no classes, lessons, rehearsals, concerts, or recitals on these days in order to give everyone a break from what we expect will be a grueling semester.  As always, applied faculty are expected to provide their students with 14 lessons per semester within the academic calendar.  Please plan NOW to re-schedule to alternate dates those lessons that will fall on the two Wellness Days.

Commencement: Commencement is currently scheduled for Sunday, May 23, but details about the format of the event have not yet been determined.

Scheduling: The spring semester will be similar to the fall in that priority for in-person instruction will be given to lessons, chamber music, and large ensembles, while all other instruction will occur online.  The biggest change from the fall semester is that many online courses will now be taught in a synchronous format meaning the teacher and students will meet online at a designated time.  We know that time conflicts may present some challenges that we did not experience in the fall, and we ask instructors to consider the following points as you plan for your spring courses:

1)      There will not be as much flexibility as there was in the fall.  Students will once again balance their daily schedules between lessons, rehearsals, practice, academic classes, and personal time, and faculty should be mindful of this as they develop in-person lesson and rehearsal schedules.

2)      Students continue to have the choice to study in person or fully remote this spring.  That means applied faculty and others approved for in person instruction will still need to arrange an online option for remote learners.  Also, faculty teaching synchronous online courses will need to be mindful of students in distant time zones, making adaptations for remote students in these situations.

3)      Faculty teaching synchronous online courses must make their attendance expectations clear in their syllabus.  It is important to clearly articulate what constitutes attendance in your online course, especially when an asynchronous option is also available for remote students.  Faculty should consider what options exist for a student in Rochester who misses the synchronous course – can s/he opt for the asynchronous lecture that is available to your remote students, and will that fulfill the attendance requirement for the day?  Making expectations clear about attendance from day one is going to be critical to ensure there are no misunderstandings.

Course Rosters: Students have been asked to make an official declaration of their spring 2021 status as remote or in person, and this information is now listed on your course rosters in UR Student.


Studio Class

We have not yet scheduled in-person studio classes for the spring semester, but we hope to share those possible options in coming weeks.  For now, we ask that you plan for online studio class to start the semester.  When we have all of the classes, concerts, and recitals scheduled for the spring, we will communicate a process for reserving rooms for in-person studio classes.



As we communicated last fall when the revised spring semester dates were announced, we will not have a single week for juries this spring.  There is simply not room or time in the schedule to stop instruction for an entire week.  Instead, juries will be scheduled in the concert halls and/or possible alternative locations on evenings and weekends throughout the month of April and perhaps into early May.  A tentative schedule is currently being developed and will be shared with the department chairs in coming weeks.  We hope to have the jury schedule in place before the semester begins so that students and faculty can plan appropriately.  Since we are not cancelling classes for juries, we will make every effort to avoid conflicts between juries and regularly scheduled classes and rehearsals.)  In those cases where a conflict is unavoidable, we expect faculty will work together collaboratively to design an equitable solution so that students are not caught in the middle of a scheduling conflict that is out of their control.  While we pledge to do our best to avoid scheduling conflicts, we appreciate, in advance, everyone’s flexibility and understanding as we work through all of the challenges this semester will present.   


COVID Safety Precautions

With the start the spring semester, all of our COVID safety protocols remain in effect from the fall–including distancing, masking, bell covers, and room downtime.  With COVID-19 cases on the rise nationwide, and particularly in Monroe County, we do not want to change these protocols that worked so well for us in the fall.  As case numbers decrease, which we fully expect as the vaccine becomes more widely available, we will consider modifications to policies.

In addition, we will continue our practice room sign out protocols from the fall, including the use of our student practice room monitors.  As a reminder, all of our music-making safety measures can be found here: https://www.esm.rochester.edu/restart/policies/

This spring we will continue our prohibition on audiences in keeping with the most current New York State restrictions, and will also maintain the University’s prohibition on outside visitors for the foreseeable future. 


Orange Zone Restrictions and Contingency Planning

As of mid-November, the Eastman and River Campuses continue to be in a New York State-designated Orange Zone.  This changes little in regard to our academic enterprise, so no modifications are needed to any of our instructional plans.  However, there are some guidelines that will be different from the fall that we wanted to call to your attention:

1)      Groups of 10 or more will not be permitted outside of the classroom.  This will largely have an impact on in-person student activities, which will be further limited from what we experienced in the fall.  We still expect to have lots of programming opportunities for students, but most will move online and those remaining in person will be smaller in scale.

2)      In-person dining is not allowed in a group setting.  The food options in the Cave, located in the basement of the main building, will remain closed, and the Dining Center in the Student Living Center will be take-out only.



Information about the University’s plans for vaccinating in-person instructors and faculty can be found here: https://www.rochester.edu/coronavirus-update/update-on-covid-vaccination-availability-for-university-in-person-instructors-faculty/.  We encourage everyone to watch their email, as additional information will be communicated via the daily @Rochester email newsletter as it becomes available.

With progress being made on vaccinating our community, we want to remind everyone that receiving the vaccine does not exempt anyone from our COVID safety protocols.  Until the all clear is given by University leadership, it is our expectation that all members of the Eastman community will continue to wear a mask, maintain appropriate distancing, and adhere to all other safety protocols that have been established by Eastman and the University

Based on our fall semester success in limiting the spread of the virus, we are optimistic that the entire Eastman community will come together this spring to keep the virus at bay.  While we hope that case numbers drop in coming weeks and months, there is still a chance that things could get worse before they get better.  To that end, we are asking faculty to consider contingency plans in case our region is designated as a Red Zone by New York State and/or the University decides that it becomes necessary to implement a temporary pause, as it is likely that either situation would result in an abrupt transition back to fully online instruction.  While we hope that this will not be necessary at any time this spring, we encourage everyone to think about how their course, lessons, or rehearsals could make this type of transition–hopefully temporarily–on short notice.

As always, if you have any concerns or witness individuals not following the rules (e.g., masking, social distancing, room downtime, respect for room reservation times), please do not hesitate to contact one of us or fill out the online report at this link: COVID-19 Concern Report.  We hope that everyone has a safe and productive spring semester, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus soon.



John and Donna


John C. Hain, DMA
Associate Dean of Academic and International Affairs
Eastman School of Music

26 Gibbs St.

Rochester, NY 14604

(585) 274-1020