Dunbar Fine Arts Classes Managing Online Learning

Online learning poses unique challenges for classes that usually rely on in-person practice and group performance.

Choir+students%2C+led+by+Miss+Tiffany+Marsh%2C+warm+up+at+the+start+of+class.

Courtesy of Emma Falluji

Choir students, led by Miss Tiffany Marsh, warm up at the start of class.

Dunbar lists 31 art, drama, and music classes in its course catalog, ranging from pottery to piano, and each class is having separate struggles.

One problem for the visual arts is that some students are not feeling as inspired as they would in person.

“I have horrible art block,” sophomore Summer Chandler said.

Chandler said she has less time and creative drive to pursue her interests, and that she has spent hours staring at a blank canvas.

Others are struggling to find the motivation to do their work.

Senior Nina Daman has been taking art classes since freshman year. She said that she doesn’t enjoy working from her house because she isn’t provided with the same materials that she has at school.

“Even though I haven’t turned in any assignments late, it is very hard to stay motivated to get work done since teachers don’t see what I’m doing behind the camera,” she said.

Online classes can require students to take more initiative, leading them to feel overwhelmed. Junior Conner Sutton is taking choir, orchestra, and musical theatre this year.

It feels like we’re practicing more, but in general I’d say students are probably practicing less.”

— Conner Sutton

“Since we don’t practice together in ensembles anymore, most of the responsibility is on us to practice outside of class,” he said. “The result is that it feels like we’re practicing more, but in general I’d say students are probably practicing less.”

Most students have never experienced online learning or had to work alone, creating additional problems for classes that usually rely on group performance. 

“We haven’t practiced with other people, so we don’t know how to play with other people,” junior and band student Reese Cooper said. 

These problems are especially pronounced for students who are just learning to play their instruments.

“It’s so hard. It’s mostly just watching the screen a lot and just watching [the teacher] play through the screen,” senior and general orchestra student Savannah Woods said.

Arts teachers are noticing similar problems.

“It’s been really hard to adapt to online because the medium of theatre is all about connecting with each other and breathing in the same space,” musical theatre teacher Mrs. Brooke Jackson said. 

Dunbar teachers are using new techniques and technology to compensate for these barriers.

Classes like musical theatre are splitting into breakout rooms to read through scripts that they cannot perform on stage. The orchestra is using a new website called Collabra that allows students to play over each other’s recordings. 

This new software has been difficult for some students to navigate.

“We do these things called composition where we each record our part and try and match it with everyone else’s, and it’s just really hard,” Woods said.

But these innovations are also making it possible for fine arts classes to create products and performances online.

Sutton said that the choir and orchestra definitely won’t be hosting in-person concerts this semester, but with the help of technology, both the orchestra and choir are working to produce a virtual concert to share with the rest of the school.