Fall 2020 Welcome and Guidelines for students

August 20, 2020

Dear Eastman students,

Welcome back!  This is not your typical back-to-school memo, as we know it has been a summer full of uncertainties with lots of questions about the upcoming semester.  We want you to know that we have all been hard at work to prepare for the start of classes this fall and are looking forward to a productive, if unorthodox, academic year that prioritizes the health and safety of our community above all else.  Whether you are returning to Rochester or studying online, we want to provide some direction to help you successfully navigate the semester.

Most importantly, we want to highlight the fact that this semester will come with challenges – some typical challenges that students face every year, and some that are unique to the circumstances we find ourselves in right now – but regardless we want you know that we are here for you and want to help you succeed.  As always, you should take advantage of the CARE Network if you are struggling, but Eastman faculty and staff are here to help as well.  While some faculty are teaching remotely, and some offices may not be at maximum capacity due to New York State occupancy guidelines, the entire Eastman community is available to help answer your questions and find solutions for problem situations. 

As we begin the semester, we encourage all of you to review your course schedule in UR Student, as we are working to ensure that by the time classes begin you will be able to see the current status of all your fall semester courses.  Every course section this fall is marked with a modality, either “in person” or “online,” which you can use as a guide as you plan for the fall.  If a course section is marked as “online” then the course is offered online for everyone, regardless of whether you are here in Rochester or studying from home.  Also, if there is no day or time associated with a particular section then you can assume it is meeting in an asynchronous format; if you see a day and time then that is when you will log in to Zoom for your class.  For all online courses the information about how you will access course materials for the fall will be found in Blackboard.

If you are enrolled in a course that is marked “in person” then the course will be offered in a hybrid format, meaning the course will meet in-person for students in Rochester and online for students studying remotely.  Again, information that online students will need to access their course materials will be found in Blackboard.

For all classes, we have asked every instructor to contact their students in each course on the first day of classes, August 26, whether your course would normally meet that day or not.  You should expect this welcome message to contain important information about the schedule for the semester, as well as information about how the instructor plans to deliver the course content if you are studying online. 

For students studying completely online, we have robust plans in place for virtual ensembles this semester.  For those of you wanting to enroll in online chamber music this semester, the Chamber Music department will have an online course taught by members of the chamber music performance faculty. Course content will be varied and will include many of the following learning opportunities: playing and recording of individual parts, performance and study of important chamber music excerpts, study of significant repertoire grouped by genre, listening (including historic recordings), score study, discussion of historic and cultural contexts, and more. If you are interested in participating on online chamber music this fall, please go to UR Student and register for CHB 200-1 (for undergraduate students) or CHB 400-1 (for graduate students) as soon as possible.

As for large ensembles, Musica Nova will be our online ensemble this fall, and Prof. Lubman will be leading several projects that include (as to be confirmed) works by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and George Lewis. Additionally, there will be a body of new works by Eastman student composers written specifically for the ensemble, and the composition and performance students will have the opportunity to work with each other during this part of the project. Students will work with Prof. Lubman and his conducting assistants in virtual coachings and participate in online classes with guests to be announced. In Zoom sessions students will work on style, interpretation and production, and where necessary, students will receive a click track, audio guide tracks, and video of the conductor along with instructions on how to produce a professional-level recording from home.  Students will record their parts individually, and group recordings will be assembled by guest producers to be announced. Throughout the semester students will also learn about an array of contemporary ensembles, performers and composers and explore the question of “what might our roles be as artists of our time?”  To register for online Musica Nova this fall, please go to UR Student and register for ENS 100-2 (if you are a first-year student or sophomore), ENS 200-2 (if you are a junior or senior), or ENS 400-3 (if you are a graduate student) as soon as possible.

For Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media students, the department is prepared to offer sections of both Jazz Performance Workshop and Jazz Ensemble in an online format.  Their plan is for both courses to include the playing and recording of individual parts, performance and study of important large and small jazz ensemble repertoire, listening, score study, discussion of historic and cultural contexts, and more. To register for online Jazz Performance Workshop this fall, please go to UR Student and register for JCM 251-9, and to register for online Jazz Ensemble please register for JCM 200-5.

We want to assure students who have opted to take 100% of their classes online that faculty will ensure they are providing a learning environment that is equitable across both in-person and online modalities.  For classes that are approved for synchronous online instruction, we expect faculty to respect the challenges presented by teaching across multiple time zones and create attendance policies that acknowledge this reality by presenting flexible options for students (e.g., recording the class and letting students who cannot attend watch the video).  For asynchronous classes, while it is possible for occasional synchronous meetings to be planned, we have advised faculty to limit these activities as much as possible so they do not interfere with your complex schedules this fall.

Over the last few weeks we have been asking students to provide us your final decision about your enrollment status for the fall semester, whether it be returning to campus for the start of classes, returning to campus on a different date, being fully remote and online for the semester, or taking a leave of absence.  If you have not yet done this, please email academicaffairs@esm.rochester.edu, and we can update our records accordingly. 

For students who indicate they will be fully online this fall, it is our expectation that you will not be on campus, and therefore will not be participating in any in-person lessons, ensembles, or classes.  If you want to change your status at any time during the semester please let us know so that we can adjust our records and reactivate your ID swipe access and Virtual-EMS booking capability, as well as notify your professors that you will be attending in-person classes.

Finally, we want to share some significant changes to the curriculum that were made over the summer and will be in place for fall 2020.  Some are pandemic-related changes, but others were long-discussed by the faculty and having everyone available this summer for meetings gave us an opportunity to move these proposals forward.

Changes to Humanities Coursework (for Undergraduate Students)
Starting in fall 2020, all the Humanities department course offerings will be worth four units instead of three.  This extra unit will not change the number of hours you meet for in-class instruction, but rather each instructor will create new activities that focus on deeper engagement with course content, skills-development, and/or community engagement.  Examples might include group projects, student-led discussions or workshops, community activities, defined reading assignments, or special assignments, and faculty will endeavor to tailor these activities to your individual interests and needs by integrating this additional content with things you are already doing in other classes, other parts of the school, or in the community.  This will ultimately benefit Eastman students by enabling a deeper engagement with Eastman’s curriculum across the school. 

There will be no change to the total number of humanities/science electives required to earn your Bachelor of Music degree, so, while previously students were required to take FWS 121 plus 7 humanities courses to fulfill this requirement, now students will only take FWS 121 plus 5 humanities courses to fulfill their humanities/science requirement at Eastman.  For returning students who have already taken some 3-unit courses through the Eastman Humanities department, you just have to ensure that you complete a total of 24 units through a mix of 3- and 4-unit courses (including FWS 121) by the time you graduate.  As always, any course on the River Campus that is worth at least 3 units will continue to count towards this requirement as long as the course content is not music-based.

For students who are currently registered for Humanities coursework at Eastman, you will see in UR Student that the unit total has already been increased to 4.  There is no additional action you need to take at this time.

Changes to Theory Core (for Undergraduate Students)
Over the last several years the Theory department has been engaged in a review of the undergraduate Theory core curriculum, and they proposed several important changes to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee this summer.  After much discussion by faculty across the school, the Theory department is adopting a new theory curriculum for the incoming first-year students this fall.  The new curriculum will do away with the “regular” and “intensive” distinctions in the first year and is designed to better address student needs at the start of their coursework.  In addition, the new curriculum will increase the range of repertoire taught to students and will find and develop connections with classes offered across the entire Eastman curriculum.

This change only impacts new first-year students, as the previous curriculum will still be in place for all returning students.  The details of the new curriculum were shared in orientation programming for new students, but please do not hesitate to reach out to the Theory department with any questions. 

Changes to Fall Course Schedule (for All Students)
Due to circumstances related to the pandemic, we had to make some difficult decisions about course offerings for the fall semester and had to cancel some course sections offered in various departments across the school.  None of the course sections that were cancelled should impact any student’s ability to graduate this year, but some students may have to adjust their schedule to ensure they are registered for enough credits to maintain their full-time status this fall.  If you were enrolled in one of the course sections that was cancelled you have been automatically withdrawn from the class, so please check your fall semester registration in UR Student to determine if you have been impacted by a course cancellation.  If you have any questions about the status of a particular course, feel free to reach out to the individual department or the Office of Academic Affairs.

In addition to the above information, below you will find specific guidance on a variety of topics that we think will be helpful as you prepare for the start of classes on August 26:


Courses and Teaching

Course information in UR Student:  The Registrar’s office is hard at work updating the final fall 2020 course information in UR Student, but right now a few courses still reflect the original meeting patterns, times, and rooms from last spring.  Our goal is to have all of this updated by Monday, August 24, so until then we appreciate your patience as we work through all the changes to this semester’s schedule.

Registration: New undergraduate students register for courses on Monday, August 24, while new graduate students register on Tuesday, August 25.  In addition, we expect there will be many changes to schedules as returning students adjust to the new modalities and meeting patterns for the fall, and you may add or drop classes through September 23 this semester.

Blackboard: It is our expectation that academic faculty will use Blackboard for their online course delivery this semester, and that all faculty – those teaching online and in-person classes, will use this tool to communicate with students.  Most importantly, all online course materials, including Zoom links for synchronous online classes, will be available to students through Blackboard. 

Grading: The grading scheme for the fall semester will follow our standard policy.  As a reminder, the undergraduate grading policy can be found here and the graduate grading policy can be found here

Fall Semester Schedule: We want to provide some important reminders about the schedule for the upcoming semester:

  • Classes begin on Wednesday, August 26
  • There are no classes on Labor Day (Monday, September 7)
  • There is no fall break this semester
  • The last day of in-person instruction is Tuesday, November 24.
  • Thanksgiving break is November 25-30
  • Classes resume on Monday, November 30 as online-only
  • The last day of the semester is Wednesday, December 9

It is our expectation that after Thanksgiving break, every course, including studio lessons and ensembles, must continue to engage with students through the remainder of the semester.  Even though we are no longer in person, the semester continues through Dec 9 and all faculty will continue to engage with their students in some form during this period.  

Final Exams: Even though the academic calendar indicates a formal period for final exams, the Registrar’s office is not going to schedule official times for final exams this semester.  Students should expect that their instructors will communicate expectations for any final assessments, including due dates and/or exam times, in their syllabus at the beginning of the semester.

Sibley Music Library: Sibley has been operating on a part-time basis since June, but updated protocols for the fall semester were recently released.  Any questions should be directed to the Sibley Library staff


Lessons, Performances, and Recitals

Studio Classes: We understand how important the studio class experience is for students and we are working hard to identify protocols to safely offer an in-person studio class experience this fall for those who are in Rochester.  However, we are not ready to schedule in-person studio classes at this time, and faculty are making plans for online studio class at the beginning of the semester.  We hope to be able to provide information about scheduling this activity in-person very soon, but regardless there will still be a weekly online experience for students studying remotely.  

Ensembles: You can review the fall 2020 ensemble rehearsal policy here.

Practice Rooms: You can review the fall 2020 practice room policy here

Block F Tent: We have erected an open-sided tent, 30’ x 90’ feet, with lights, for the next few months, which is set up in the Block F parking lot across from the Student Living Center. As we start the semester, the tent will be reserved M-W-F from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm for the choral ensembles through the middle of October.  The tent may also be used by ECMS choral groups on Saturday mornings until noon.  Aside from this fixed schedule, however, the tent will be available from 9:00 am until 8:00 pm daily for open practice, warmup activity before a lesson, and small group rehearsing on an ad hoc basis.  Students should bring their own music stands; chairs will not be provided during practice.

Please note that the tent is NOT an event space, nor is it a party space.  As a practice space, all masking and distancing protocols will continue to be in place and be enforced.  The Department of Public Safety will be watchful for activity in the tent during its hours of operation to ensure that these guidelines are being followed.

Audiences: We will begin the semester with no audiences for any of our performances.  This decision was not made lightly but rather out of an abundance of caution as we welcome students back to campus.  However, as the semester progresses, we will re-evaluate this decision and work with University officials to determine if it is possible to open our halls to a limited number of audience members later in the fall semester. 

Gig Service: Given the heightened emphasis on health and safety this semester, and with the goal of limiting the exposure of members of our community to those outside the U of R campus, we have suspended operation of the Eastman Gig Service for the fall 2020 semester. 


Residential and Student Life

Student Activities: We are still finalizing plans, but fully expect that student organizations will be able to build community, provide leadership experiences, and be a vital part of the Eastman experience this fall.  Student organizations will be able to host both virtual programs and limited in-person meetings using physical distancing, masks, and other precautions.  Some examples of programming for this fall include: synchronized movies, grab-and-go care/snack packages, raffles, online streaming for fitness, meditation, and yoga, virtual scavenger hunts, Bob Ross paint night-kits, online gaming tournaments, online 5Ks, late night bingo, trivia nights, book clubs, audiobook readings with deans, MET tours, and many other activities.

After Thanksgiving Break: After we transition to online instruction after Thanksgiving break the Student Living Center will close, and we expect most students to return home.  Very soon we will announce a process for requesting permission to remain in the SLC between December 1 and the start of the spring semester, but we expect this permission will be granted to just a very limited number of international students.  In the meantime, all students should begin making plans to return home after November 24. 

Housing/Dining Billing Adjustments: We are working as fast as we can to remove housing charges for students who are studying online at the start of the semester, and we expect to have all of the billing adjustments completed over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, students in this situation should pay their bill and just subtract their housing and dining charges from their payment.  We will not be charging any late fees in the month of August, so there will be no penalty for underpayment of your fall tuition bill at this time. 

Access to campus buildings after Thanksgiving: Right now, we expect our facilities to remain open in a limited capacity after Thanksgiving break so that students with permission to remain in the SLC, as well as those living off-campus, can practice.  Students can expect that additional information about our post-Thanksgiving plans to be released in late September. 

Cave Folders: Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily close the student folders in the Cave this fall.  

Graduate Lounge: The Graduate Lounge will be closed until further notice based on capacity limitations put in place due to the pandemic.   

Downtime for Students: We recognize that many areas that were normally spaces for students to congregate during their downtime are closed or have limited capacity.  However, there are still several spaces on campus that are open and available to all students, including the Orchestra Pit and Eastman Dining Center on the 1st floor of the Student Living Center, the Alumni Courtyard of the Student Living Center, Betty’s Café and Alcove Lounges in the Eastman Theatre, Cominsky Promenade, and the courtyard outside of Miller Center.  As with all other spaces on campus, students are expected to follow all physical distancing and masking guidelines.  We hope students will take advantages of these spaces during their downtime between lessons and rehearsals, as well as when you just want to relax and catch up with friends.


Cleaning and COVID-19 Protocols/Policies

Cleaning Protocols: Classrooms, studios, and practice rooms will be cleaned daily by ESM Facilities.  Cleaning protocols will be posted throughout the school, and supplies will be available for use by individuals between official cleanings by facilities.  It is our expectation that students will abide by these protocols and clean their personal classroom, rehearsal, and practice space as required. 

Visitor Policy: Students may not host visitors or guests on campus this fall for any reason.

Travel Restrictions: Students attending classes from Rochester should plan to remain in Rochester for the duration of the fall semester. If students must depart Rochester mid-semester, they should plan to remain away from campus for the remainder of the semester and continue their semester remotely.

Please make sure that you continually check Eastman’s Preparing for Fall 2020 website for updates throughout the beginning of the academic year.  We also encourage you to once again review the UR COVID-19 Community Commitment, which will be our guiding document to ensure the entire University community acts in the best interest of our collective health and safety.  If you observe an individual or group that is not acting responsibly with regard to COVID, please report such incidents through the COVID Incident Report Form, and we will investigate and follow-up as appropriate.

While this will be a semester like none other, we are excited to begin a new school year and hope you will join us at Convocation, which will be live-streamed to the Eastman Community on Wednesday, August 26 at 2:30 pm from Kilbourn Hall.  Have a great semester!


Donna Brink Fox, Senior Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs

John Hain, Associate Dean of Academic and International Affairs