“Turn your camera on!”; “I can’t hear you!”; “Where is […]?” These are all things we heard during distance learning, off-and-on for nearly two years.

Having school on Zoom was not fun, but we learned to make it work. Some classes were easier than others (for both students and teachers); but music…well, that was a whole other story.

Teaching During The Pandemic

In March of 2020, when we moved online, teachers were given a very short amount of time to prepare and plan lessons.

“Initially, when I only thought we would be online for a few weeks, I didn’t think things would be that bad,” MYP Music Teacher Courtney McDonald remembers. “After two weeks of attempting to teach music online, I saw what a challenge it was.”

GarageBand: an all-too familiar sight to music students during online learning.

Performing in live groups was not an option, so for MYP Music, composition units were extended. FlipGrid was useful to share ideas, musical talents, and feedback; and GarageBand became the standard for creating music electronically.

DP students had it easier because they already had their instruments at home. And, as DP Music Teacher Dawn Lovig explains, 11th and 12th graders focus mainly on analysis—so the pandemic didn’t really affect the course.

The music teachers did the best the could, but there was no way to have the students play instruments at the same time over Zoom (do you remember the lagging and echo??), nor be able to give feedback in the same way the could in-person. Music is truly a subject where students are typically active and learn by doing. Being able to practice instruments around others and hear the sound differences is a big part of that learning.

“Teaching music online was very challenging and unfulfilling. Music is meant to be made together, in person” —Courtney McDonald.

The Importance of the Music Room

Students play in one of AISB’s music rehearsal rooms.

When we started coming to school for half-days roughly seven months after lockdown started, this was very beneficial for many classes because teachers were actually able to teach face-to-face with their students.

In music class, we were pretty much in the same position as we were before—just minus the screen. Standing two meters away from each other with half of our faces covered, there was no way to safely play the instruments. In fact, the teachers weren’t even allowed to teach in the music rooms. Instead, we were in the portables without equipment.

Even when we were out of the hybrid model and there was only masking, it was difficult because you couldn’t see expressions on people’s faces. This was a huge obstacle for the AISB Choir.

A large part of music is trying new instruments; and while at home and during the hybrid model, we had to experiment with those instruments on computers. Learning music online was very difficult to engage with, let alone teach. Distance learning and the hybrid model left GarageBand to be one of the few options to create music. This created some misconceptions of what MYP music actually is.

“It’s an exploratory course; it’s for everyone,” says AISB Music Teacher Courtney McDonald. “It should be just a chance for you to get your feet wet with lots of different instruments, with singing, with composing, with collaborating with others.”

Ms. Lovig says that the most challenging part of being online was that everything had to happen individually. Before the pandemic you would get into a practice room with three of your friends, you’re playing in a rock band kind of setting. There wouldn’t be any masks or social distancing.

During distance learning, students were able to check out instruments from the school for personal use but for learning purposes, GarageBand was the main platform. When you are playing a physical instrument it is drastically different from clicking keys on your computer to make music. It is a whole other experience.

How COVID-19 has Impacted Students’ Interest in Music

Since COVID-19 restrictions have been fully lifted, the AISB Ensemble, the Jazz Band, and the Cabaret Choir are rehearsing for musical events such as Cabaret Night (which will take place tomorrow, May 14th, at 5pm) and Rock in the Park, which is scheduled for June 16th.

“We start to get back to this idea that music really is a community event and it’s something to celebrate together.”

Ms. Lovig

After not being able to perform for a long period of time, many students are more apprehensive about performing. So students are very much encouraged to sign up for music CCAs. Ninth grade Arts Council member Megan L. describes how not as many students are signing up for these events. Usually, students want to wait until some of their peers sign up until they do.

A New York Times article talks about how since masks aren’t mandatory anymore, many teens are having anxiety regarding taking off their masks because they’re worried about their appearance. As kids turn 11-12 years old they develop something called an “imaginary audience” which makes them feel as if everyone is watching them and thinking about them at all times that can make them super self-conscious.

This could make performing very difficult for many students because people are actually there to see them, which is a lot considering it was already difficult to take off the mask in the first place.

“When I get to take my mask off it’s going to be so… I don’t know the word for it, like revealing but also like a huge adrenaline rush”

Caileigh. J 11th grader performing in the Cabaret Night

When there aren’t as many people performing at these kinds of events for those that did sign up it may feel as if there’s more pressure on them. These students have a tremendous amount of courage to get up on stage to showcase their passion for music.

The music department at AISB is focused on rebuilding our community. Students are starting to sign up for Music CCAs again after a long break, and Lunch Lounge is happening again. It’s a lot of work, but as the music teachers explain, it’s necessary to bring the community back together again.

To do your part, make sure to check out Cabaret Night, taking place this Saturday, May 14th in the AISB theater!