Arts classes present unique difficulties. Because they rely on ensemble practice and performance or require specific materials, they can be especially difficult to transfer to an online platform.
Art teacher Ms. Deborah Eller said that the art department currently plans to create “supply packs” of materials that students can pick up. Students will watch videos demonstrating art techniques and processes, then use those techniques at home.
Similarly, band and orchestra students who do not own their own instrument will be able to check out instruments from the school as they have in previous years.
However, it will still be difficult for music students to play together during remote learning.
“The actual putting together of the virtual orchestra is pretty difficult,” orchestra teacher Mrs. Rebecca Goff said. She said that playing together on Zoom is a “disaster” because of the lag.
Mrs. Goff plans on producing a virtual performance and teaching classes using Collabra, a “remote learning and practice management platform for K-16 music and performing arts education.” With the new software, students will be able to listen to recordings and upload videos of themselves playing.
Mrs. Marsh is also looking into platforms like FlipGrid for her choir classes.
Even with the help of new technology, Mrs. Goff said that she is most concerned about “the beginners” at Dunbar and at Rosa Parks where she also teaches.
“I’ve never started a beginner without doing hands-on, without saying, ‘No, put it over here’ or ‘Move your fingers this way,’” she said. “Not being able to get near enough to even point to the right finger is a little difficult.”
Mrs. Goff is considering using visual cues, such as putting color-coded stickers on the instruments, so that she can provide instructions from afar.
Instrument maintenance is also an issue.
“You can’t really train your students how to reset a bridge quickly,” Mrs. Goff said. Last year, when instruments broke, she “put on masks and gloves and went to [students’] front yards and fixed them.”
She has similar plans to perform outdoor “triage” on instruments this semester.
While Mrs. Marsh doesn’t have to worry about damaged instruments in her choir classes, she’s still been trying to find ways to make her online classes engaging.
Last year, the choir put together a virtual graduation performance with the help of a professional editor. Mrs. Marsh is hopeful that this year, the choir can “do some kind of video performance that we could socially distance, record with the pieces that we’ve worked on this semester, and share out on YouTube.”
She has also made plans to hold “Master Classes” with professional musicians covering topics like “Yoga and the Voice.” Her goal is for students to “see music in the professional world, an application of what they do in the classroom.