Music programs have been severely affected by the pandemic. Since March of 2020, music teachers of Ridgewood High School have been exploring unique ways to continue their programs as seamlessly as possible. Unlike academic classes, music classes can hardly function virtually. Typically, the teacher or select students unmute themselves to perform while the rest of the class follow along at home, muted. Needless to say, this does not ensure whether or not those following along at home are playing correctly, or even playing at all. WiFi issues also cause a delay, making it even more challenging for some students to keep up.
Although virtual music classes are flawed in many ways, a few useful and effective resources have emerged to allow for a better class experience. Flipgrid and Upbeat, for instance, are platforms that have become favored by many music ensembles. On Flipgrid, students are able to record their playing and publish videos to the class. Teachers and classmates are then able to view and comment on submitted recordings with constructive criticism which is crucial for musicians and hard to attain through Zoom or Google Meet. Upbeat takes the excitement to another level, as it allows for the layering of multiple recordings. Teachers can merge the recordings to assemble a virtual concert. So far, orchestra, choir, and band have been utilizing these resources to allow for as much collaborative work as possible.
As the school year is nearing its end, many have questioned the possibility of end-of-the-year concerts for the music department. John Luckenbill, co-director of RHS Bands, states that “The band is hoping to do a virtual Zoom concert to present various groups—the curricular bands, the small ensembles, the jazz band. We are hoping to present those within the next month.” He further states, “We are holding out a little hope that a live outdoor performance might be possible at the end of the year, but preparing for that is a huge unknown right now. The band will continue to prepare things virtually, and may end up doing another ‘Tunes in Zoom’, instead of our traditional Tunes in June concert.” Kristi Geronimo, the orchestra director, shares similar hope for a potential outdoor concert. She believes that this would be more suitable for small ensembles than for large curricular music programs, as the former consists of fewer members. A concern to her is the jump from virtual practices to a live performance. She wonders how smoothly this transaction will occur, as many members have been fully virtual all along. The choir director, Steven Bourque, similarly exclaims, “we hope in the spring to have the opportunity to perform outdoors and to complete a few more virtual projects!” All three music directors can agree on one fact: absolutely nothing is definite as of right now. All plans need to be as flexible as possible, in case of future disruption. Despite this, the teachers and many students remain hopeful.
Graphic: Sayumi Baduge