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Fate of school music programs and how they're adjusting to virtual learning

Posted at 3:47 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 15:47:46-04
(WXYZ) —

School districts turning to virtual learning only this fall face the added challenge of properly teaching music classes.

7 Action News reporter Darren Cunningham spoke with Rochester Public Schools superintendent who says flat out in-person instruction can not be replaced.

But, he and a student say they can do the best with what they have.

"It's an adjustment for sure because you don't get the immediate feedback that you would get in-person in a classroom," said Ava Briggeman, a senior at Rochester High.

These are memories from a much different time for Ava Briggeman and her bandmates at Rochester high school.

As she heads into her senior year, Briggeman says her band director is doing his best to help students keep a positive outlook with virtual learning being the only option for at least the first month of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's definitely a motivation aspect to it too. Like, having a class everyday helps with keeping in the routine of playing, but then when you don't have a class and you don't get to see other people who can help with the music or critique you, it's definitely harder to learn the same way," Briggeman said.

"Our orchestra program can move forward and socially distance. That's no problem," said Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaner. "Band and choir are our challenges."

Superintendent Dr. Shaner says band and choir teachers are designing courses where students can learn music theory and do activities like 'sight reading' remotely.

He says the district will use software called "Smart music" which allows students to play together from home, as they did during the 2020 graduation ceremony.

"We had 350 kids playing at the same time on a piece of software, and it just gives me chills to think about it, and it actually sounded awesome," said Dr. Shaner.

As far as the idea of practicing in-person safely in the unforeseeable future–

"There's so much of this that's been discussed and discussed and had dialogue over and over again and the parents have weighed in on it," said Dr. Shaner. "It's very difficult. I don't think we have any definitive solutions on where kids will be able to play and when. It really more depends on our instructional model looks like when we return in person."

Dr. Shaner says the weather will, of course, play a factor. With an early winter, playing outside will look different than unseasonably warm weather in the fall months.