As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge on, the music program at Mt. Hebron has started to look and sound a little different.
While some subjects may have a smoother transition into virtual learning than others, student musicians have had a harder time coping with the virtual environment.
When the Howard County Board of Education approved the school system’s reopening plan consisting of 100% online instruction, music ensembles throughout the county took a major blow. Many students depend on their school to provide rental instruments.
“I know of several students who rely on the school to provide them instruments. Many of them were just given one and were not able to play during the summer,” said senior violinist Sahil Mada.
One of the major obstacles that the music program continues to face is maintaining a sense of normalcy. Last school year, students were used to seeing and hearing everyone play together, but now the new normal consists of blank, pixelated screens and less interaction among peers.
“I have seen a less engaged class during the period, as not all cameras are on and students are usually hesitant to participate and speak out,” said sophomore vocalist Elodie Greenwell via text message.
Through the video-conferencing tool, Google Meet, students have been able to receive instruction from teachers. Despite the popularity of the platform, it still has many flaws. Performing in an ensemble is impossible with today’s technology. The lag time in transmission is evident, and there is no way to tell if you are in sync with one another, which is essential in music. In addition, sounds that are produced are not completely authentic because of subtle differences that do not translate to a computer or phone speaker.
When asked about whether virtual learning has hindered her growth as a musician, Greenwell responded, “Of course I am missing out on blending and performing as a group, but virtual learning has improved my ability to grow in other aspects as a musician. It allows me to focus more on my tone, breathing and vowels, and how I can contribute to the group when the time comes.”
Despite the problems associated with virtual learning, orchestra director Dr. David Shumway has found creative ways to get students more involved. In the past weeks, students were split up into smaller groups and started to play challenging music from famous composers including Telemann and Mozart. Using the online audio distribution platform Soundcloud, students were able to upload their recordings for a grade.
When asked about whether there were any plans for virtual performances, Dr. Shumway said, “A virtual performance by the entire Fine Arts Department is in the early planning stages. Stay tuned!”