Skip To Main Content

A Seamstress in the Dining Hall

When the School of Music’s Flute Choir resumed in-person rehearsals and performances, they got a special assist from Dining Hall staff member Rita Bell, who sewed custom performance face masks for all eight members. Michelle Kiehl, executive director of the School of Music, shared the story:

“Every in-person year, for as long as I’ve known, the Flute Choir has performed at Family Weekend. This year, however, the Flute Choir was not able to take the stage as their instrumentation wasn’t ‘COVID-19-sensitive’ and we were not able to secure performance masks in time for the October program. Our orders for performance flute masks were canceled, fulfillment wasn’t happening and there wasn’t anyone who could get their hands on them. 

“Scouring the internet, the closest we could find was a pattern for such a mask on Etsy. Suspecting we could connect to a known seamstress, we made the $3 intellectual property online investment. Next up, we solicited Rita Bell in the Dining Center. Did you know that Rita sews figure skating costumes in off hours? Surely she could pull off a $3 Etsy pattern! Also, Rita’s husband is a musician and she had created music performance masks already.

“She agreed to the job. We emailed her the Etsy pattern, and the next day she prepared a mock-up using overlapping disposable face masks; she grabbed me as I was headed to the hot food line to tell me she had already prepared a prototype. I brought the prototype to Flute Choir Director Angela Longo, who tested the mask. She recommended some minor adjustments with a Sharpie, and Rita tweaked the pattern, then prepared another round. The process continued a couple of times until the pattern for the flute performance mask was finalized.

“While awaiting the new custom fabric performance masks, we assembled nine temporary masks using Rita’s final pattern. The temporary masks, each made from two disposable masks strategically cut and stapled, allowed the Flute Choir to gather and begin to play this year. These masks gave the Flute Choir a runway, knowing the custom masks were on their way, and to allow them to welcome six new members to the ensemble (for a total of eight members). The Flute Choir was invited to play for Revels this year, and with the confidence that performance masks were in the queue, the ensemble gladly accepted the invitation!

“Each member of the Flute Choir recently received Rita’s custom performance mask, and the ensemble is eagerly anticipating the Flute Choir’s first-ever Revels performance. Each member is graciously seeing past the initial awkwardness of playing while masked and instead feeling the joy of making and sharing music together!”

Members of the Dana Hall Flute Choir rehearse in masks
Members of the Dana Hall Flute Choir rehearse in masks