The Shepherd School of Music

COVID-19: Shepherd School Class and Performance Update from Dean Yekovich

Tuesday, June 23 2020

Dear new and returning Shepherd School students,

The faculty and staff of the Shepherd School join me in sending you greetings. We trust you’re finding ways to stay productive despite the challenges we face with having in-person interactions.

I’m writing to share what we currently are planning for the upcoming fall semester, recognizing this all could change as our situation evolves.

Our top priority has been and continues to be ensuring the safety of our School community. This will include testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, clean and adequately ventilated air, sanitized spaces and safe distancing protocols. Taking responsibility for one another’s well-being will be a daily theme and we’re confident our community can successfully rise to the challenge.

Both current and incoming students have expressed their desire to interact, in person, with their teachers whenever feasible. We are planning to maximize in-person instruction to the furthest extent possible while observing all safety protocols.

Individual lessons, studio class, repertoire classes and chamber music will be in-person the majority of the time and whenever possible.

Some remote instruction will occur, mainly in the form of dual delivery, where you’ll alternate in larger classes between in-person and online sessions (this will allow classes to meet while appropriately distanced). A small number of classes may be delivered completely online if necessary and, as mentioned above, we must be prepared to adjust if the situation necessitates it. All performance-based activities will be scheduled in studios and halls that will ensure safe distancing guidelines can be followed. Our largest ensembles, i.e. The Shepherd School Symphony, Chamber Orchestra and Rice Chorale will be suspended for the time being but should the dynamics of the situation change, we will be prepared to pivot quickly.

Recitals will be in-person, video recorded and, in some cases, live streamed; select performances such as the Chamber Music Festival in November will be live streamed and recorded as well. Audiences will be limited in size and comprised of fellow students, faculty and staff. This too may evolve if the threshold for risk is gradually lowered. Both Alice Pratt Brown Hall and our new Brockman Hall for Opera will be accessible to faculty, students and staff through key card access only.

The fall semester will be slightly shortened as you were all notified by Rice President David Leebron a few weeks ago. We are scheduled to begin classes on Monday, August 24 and the last day of in-person instruction will be Friday, November 20.

Having a shortened semester means our week-to-week schedule will be intensified. All performance-based instruction and notably chamber music will begin in week one. This will require our traditional first-of-the-year orchestra and chamber music placement auditions to be administered online, prior to the beginning of school. Letters from Professors Larry Rachleff, our Music Director and Norman Fischer, Director of Chamber Music, will be forthcoming shortly and share details about the audition plans and requirements.

We are fortunate to have both the facilities and support personnel to provide our community with multiple opportunities for safe, in-person interactions while also delivering instruction online whenever needed.

Resuming a number of our regular performance-based activities, with some obvious adjustments, will be greatly welcomed. We are eager to renew our contact with returning students and welcome those new to the Shepherd School.

Be well and remain productive; August 24 will be just around the corner.

With warm regards,

Robert Yekovich, Dean

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Dear Friends,

As our country and world confront the profound social and personal disruptions inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I remain optimistic that our collective best efforts will enable us to rise up and overcome this unprecedented challenge.

At The Shepherd School of Music and Rice University, we have adopted measures to both protect our students, faculty and staff, and also help them navigate in this new and unfamiliar environment.

Classes and individual instruction have been moved to online delivery as nearly all students have left campus. Certain technological limitations inherent with online audio and video have posed a particular challenge for the Shepherd School’s performance-based instruction but our incredibly resilient and creative faculty are developing strategies for minimizing these shortcomings. We additionally remain committed to ensuring that all students scheduled to graduate are not obstructed by these extremely untimely setbacks.

In the coming days, the Shepherd School will be sharing special audio and video content with our community via our website and social media. We encourage you to remain in touch and visit us often on Facebook and Instagram. Updates regarding on-campus activities are also available on Rice’s website.

We remain extremely grateful to you, our community of friends and advocates, for your steadfast and unqualified support. Opportunities for celebrating the artistry of our remarkable students and faculty, together and in person, will hopefully resume next fall. We eagerly anticipate that return to normalcy and welcoming you to the Brockman Music and Performing Arts Center, comprised of our beloved Alice Pratt Brown Hall and the stunning new Brockman Hall for Opera, both of which will be home to The Shepherd School of Music.

With immense gratitude and wishes for continued good health,

Robert Yekovich, Dean

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

In legal compliance with the "Stay Home, Work Safe" order from Harris County, students are not permitted to access Alice Pratt Brown Hall until April 3 (please be mindful that this date is subject to change).

Practicing in the building is discontinued but Alice Pratt Brown Hall will remain open until this Friday, March 27 at 3 p.m. for retrieving personal items. Please make arrangements to recover whatever possessions are necessary prior to closure March 27.

Updates will be forthcoming but in the meantime, please make sure to take all precautionary measures for protecting your personal well-being and the well-being of others.

With utmost compassion for our entire community,

Robert Yekovich, Dean

Thursday, March 19, 2020
To ensure the well-being of the Houston community in light of COVID-19, Rice University is following precautionary recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and prohibiting on-campus gatherings through April 30. Therefore, we regret to inform you that all performances at the Shepherd School of Music are cancelled.

Monday, March 16, 2020
The World Health Organization has now officially designated the spread of the coronavirus COVID - 19 as a pandemic. Decisions as to how we best address this situation are challenging given the rapidly changing nature and reach of the coronavirus spread. Rice and the Shepherd School are focused first and foremost on the health and well being of the entire community as well as our commitment to providing a high quality education.

Our entire student population is being impacted in very profound and different ways. Please access the following link ( and read the letters from Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates and Seiichi Matsuda, Interim Provost and Dean of Graduate and Post Doctoral Studies for more specific details.

How this directly impacts the faculty, staff and students in the Shepherd School is as follows:

  • All Shepherd School classes for both graduate and undergraduate students will be delivered online, beginning Monday, March 23. For undergraduates, this includes individual lessons. For graduate students, you can elect to have your individual lessons online or in person (Alice Pratt Brown Hall will remain open).
  • Course and individual lesson guidelines pertaining to regular, in-person instruction will also apply to the online formatted courses. Please email your studio teachers and/or course instructors for more details. It is important to keep in mind that the process of converting a large portion of our instruction to an online format will take a number of days. Your patience will be greatly appreciated.
  • The Shepherd School Symphony, Shepherd School Chamber Orchestra, Rice Chorale and a variety of other ensemble rehearsals and performances have been cancelled for the semester. The School’s online performance calendar will be updated daily.
  • Chamber music rehearsals and performances may proceed with participation being voluntary. The total number of people performing and in attendance must not exceed twenty five. We ask that “safe distancing” be practiced as much as possible. Only faculty, students, staff (and possibly family) should be present at performances as Rice has directed that we not encourage audience members from outside the University to come on campus.
  • Studio faculty will determine how best for students to fulfill their degree recital requirements. More information can be obtained by contacting your studio teacher.

We will continue to provide information as the situation evolves. Make sure to observe all precautionary health and hygiene measures.


Robert Yekovich, Dean