As the school prepares to move forward with phase two of the plan to return to school in a hybrid system on April 19, teachers and administration are juggling an endless list of logistics. Performing arts classes are working to do the same but with the added challenge of evaluating how to resume performing safely.
Choir teacher and performing art director Jill Denny has been a leading force in organizing the difficult hybrid return for performing arts classes with more stringent safety guidelines. Denny is optimistic and hopeful about being able to perform in person will make the hard work pay off.
“It’s a lot of logistical planning, [we are]jumping through a million hoops to make it happen,” Denny said.
Up to this point in the year, performing arts classes have already had to endure a learning curve and big adjustment to distance learning, trying their best to continue to perform virtually.
According to Denny, the choir program invested in JackTrip microphones that eliminate the latency between the singer’s voices as they perform on Zoom, allowing them to sing simultaneously and in harmony.
“It’s a shared experience, and we are trying to move forward from what we did last year … we learned the music, recorded the music, and edited the music, it looked like an ensemble, but we all did it independently but now we are collaborating as we would be for choir,” Denny said.
In the Madrigals choir, Junior Sophie Lyons says the JackTrip made all the difference in being able to sing virtually.
“Before the JackTrip came along we had to sing on mute and it just doesn’t have the same energy and excitement as singing together, but Jill has worked so hard to provide all of her students with the Jacktrip devices so we all get to feel like we are singing together, even though we are all in our homes,” Lyons said.
Dance Spectrum teacher Lauren Kato says her students have also learned to modify their ways of learning and accommodate the unique learning environment that is online school. The class uses exaggerated hand signals to ease communication without having to un-mute their microphones each time and uses a mirroring filter to make it easier for students to teach each other new dances.
“I think at the point we are in the semester, a majority, not all, but many of my students have adapted to distance learning. I know they don’t love it because there is no social interaction but they’ve adapted to learning in that way and I’ve learned as a teacher to teach them in a way that’s working,” Kato said.
Moving forward, in a hybrid learning environment, all performing arts except for string orchestra and acting classes, have to accommodate their instruction and performances outdoors while still using Zoom for those students who have opted to not return to for on-campus learning.
“I am hopeful that we will be able to do it safely so that all the classes that need to take place outside like dance, other performing arts, and PE can still happen and material can still be taught and learned efficiently and effectively,” Kato said.
“One of the things we are trying to figure out is how do we all have band and choir all outside at the same time and not have the trumpets overpowering the singers,” Denny said.
While many students have decided to remain in the option of online learning, Denny says a majority of students in performing arts classes have decided to return likely because for many of them it is their first opportunity to perform together, in-person since last March.
“Especially in instrumental and dance because for them it has been a very lonely experience, I think they are very motivated to come back to do their performing art. At the same time some people are not comfortable coming back and their opinion has to be just as honored and we have to do everything we can to still make them feel included,” Denny said.
Lyons says she is looking forward to sharing a space with her fellow Madrigals in person especially because she has been missing the communal and social aspects of choir.
“Getting to see all the people I have only seen through a tiny zoom box for the past year in person is going to be awesome, and nothing compares to hearing our choir sing all together, so I am thrilled to be going back to school,” Lyons said.
Through the whirlwind of a planning process and ever-changing guidelines, Denny says she feels proud at how well the entire performing arts program has been able to maintain its performance-based learning and strong community throughout virtual learning.
“People didn’t sign up for choir to do music theory and suddenly study music history, they signed up because they wanted to sing with their friends and they wanted to create something beautiful as a group,” Denny said. “That is the biggest challenge, how do we do that when we are not all in the same space, and this is true for all of the performance arts.”