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Band, Chorus & Orchestra Teachers Excited to Start Working with Students

Craft 66 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

AUGUST 11, 2020 – As the Music Administrator for WS/FC middle and high schools, Andrew Craft has been working with music teachers to ensure the best possible virtual learning experience for students when online learning begins for them on Aug. 17.

“I think teachers are excited and ready to go back to work,” Craft said. “Our teachers love teaching kids and love teaching music.”

The prospect of taking music classes virtually hasn’t discouraged students from enrolling in music classes, he said, and as many have signed up as normally would.

“Kids are still excited to sign up for band, chorus or orchestra,” he said.

That is especially true for students in middle school, Craft said. “There is a lot of excitement about learning to play an instrument even if it has to be virtually.”

As the 2020-21 school year begins, the teaching process will be more sophisticated than it was after students had to start learning at home in the final weeks of the 2019-20 school year, Craft said.

During the past school year, teachers often weren’t able to work online with their entire class at one time. This year, music teachers will meet online with the entire class at the same time as they would if they were able to meet in person.

“The teacher is going to be able to teach their kids,” Craft said. “With online band, you can do anything you want except play at the same time.”

With everyone in the class online together, he said, the teacher will provide instruction while the students’ microphones are on mute.

“Then the director will call on individuals to unmute and play,” Craft said.

Although the tone may not be as good because of the quality of the student’s microphone, the teacher will be able to note any aspect of the playing that needs attention and provide feedback.

The teacher can then move on to other students, giving each of them the opportunity to perform.

Music teachers have worked really hard during the summer break to develop the additional skills necessary to serve students online. Many of them have participated in optional summer meetings to talk and learn more.

Craft heard someone say it’s as if everyone is a first-year teacher all over again. There’s a lot to that, he said.

“The teachers are working so hard.”

During the summer break, Craft has done such things as teach at a virtual music camp, and he was among those who taught a webinar for N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Participants included representatives of the N.C. Symphony and a music teacher at the N.C. Virtual Academy who already had extensive experience working with students online.

“She was great,” Craft said. 

Rose, who has been teaching music online for four years, is the Middle and High School Music Teacher at the academy.

“There is only one thing you absolutely cannot do online and that's playing altogether in a synchronous session,” Rose said.

“Everything else is possible, with a little creativity.”

“For example, before I taught virtually, I taught high school band. Brick-and-mortar high school band rehearsals went something like this: I would listen to my band, give them corrections, they would adjust their playing through a series of exercises if needed, and then they would play again for me to assess. I would move on or try a different rehearsal technique if things weren’t quite where they should be.” 

“I do the exact same thing in the virtual setting except some parts occur outside of synchronous rehearsal because my entire rehearsal is muted…I do the ‘listening’ part before our rehearsal by reviewing student recordings on the music from the previous week and making notes on what I need to rehearse. I give my students feedback and we go through exercises just like in brick and mortar. Then, I listen to the next round of recordings from that my students submit to assess whether what we did in rehearsal worked or if we need to revisit a concept.”

“The biggest thing to keep in mind is the ‘why’ behind what we do as music teachers. My ‘why’ is to create a community where students can come together and make music together in order to become lifelong music learners.”

“It isn't to earn a superior rating or a first place trophy. The music we make together isn't perfect and isn't an exact replacement of making music together in person but that doesn't make it any less meaningful. Students are going to need community more than ever this year. So don't forget to take time to laugh during rehearsals, give students time to get to know each other, or host students for a (virtual) lunch bunch once in a while.”

For information on how to obtain an instrument, parents should reach out to their child’s band or orchestra director.

Kim Underwood