The Collegian
Sunday, January 29, 2023

Wasps in Booker Hall interrupt UR musicians amidst concert season

<p>Photo courtesy of Max Muselmann/Unsplash</p>

Photo courtesy of Max Muselmann/Unsplash

Wasps in the Booker Hall of Music are disrupting rehearsals and performances, forcing University of Richmond musicians to perform with swatters under their seats to avoid being stung.

“I had visions of being in the middle of the piece of music and hearing people behind me in the audience screaming because they were getting terrorized by a wasp,” said Steve Barton, the conductor of the UR wind ensemble.

Sophomore Selena Deng, a flutist in a chamber group and the student assistant for the music department, said faculty told her there had been a problem with wasps for years, but it had escalated recently.

Over two weeks, they killed around 50 wasps, she said.

Barton said he commends the effort of the administrative staff at Modlin and the University of Richmond for their quick call to action. An exterminator came to inspect the concert hall and was able to put a bandaid on the area above the stage where the wasps were coming from, he said. Barton said he did not see any wasps at all on Nov. 20 or during their concert on Nov. 21, but there has not been a permanent solution.

“What was really funny about the whole thing for me is that up until Nov. 7, I have not seen a wasp in Camp Concert the entire time I have been at UR,” Barton said. 

When he entered the concert hall the evening of Nov. 7, he said he saw around six wasps laying on the floor. They appeared to have been stunned, but still alive until Barton said he “got to them.”

“One rehearsal we walked in and there were fly swatters under every seat, and we were killing wasps live,” Deng said.

Barton told the musicians during rehearsal about the wasps and community members who had been in the ensemble for six to eight years told him that was not the first time wasps were in the concert hall, he said.

Sophomore Parisa Mershon, a violinist, said the wasps stopped rehearsals. Initially, wasps just flew around the stage near the first chairs and the conductor, but eventually, they started to land on music stands and even musicians while they were in the middle of practicing. 

One student even used her violin to swat at the wasps, Mershon said, which prompted her and her stand partner, both EMTs at UR, to calm everyone down.

Deng said some people had been stung and the orchestra conductor told students who were allergic to wasps to not come to rehearsals. Many community members did not come to the next rehearsal for fear of being stung, Mershon said.

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Because of the wasps, the chamber groups moved into Perkinson Recital Hall in North Court, which is smaller than Booker. The orchestra ended up having a rehearsal in the black box in the Modlin Center for the Arts, which was crammed and did not have great acoustics since it is meant for theater, Deng said.

The orchestra had two more rehearsals before their concert, but were not worried about their preparedness for their concert Nov. 30, Mershon said. 

Although most groups relocated, the women’s chorale and schola cantorum performed in Booker while wasps were flying around the stage and the audience, Deng said.

Deng said she continues to see wasps occasionally.

“Here we are, we’ve been doing all this stuff, and everything comes grinding to a halt because we have wasps,” Barton said.

Contact news writer Abby Spiller at abby.spiller@richmond.edu.

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