Photo used with permission of Jocelyn Cheung.
On a normal day at school, before the coronavirus hit, the music hall would be flooded with loud string melodies, powerful vocals and staccato percussion rhythms. The music department, consisting of orchestra, chorus and band, allows students to express their passion for music. However, in a virtual setting, teachers and students must face unfamiliar situations.
Some classes usually begin with a short ice-breaker, followed up by warm-ups and then work time on the group’s piece with everyone’s microphones off. Since having all students play or sing at once is problematic due to audio lags, there has been a stronger focus on learning about the fundamentals of music rather than perfecting the sound of the group in chorus, according to senior Caitlyn Fitzgerald.
“Right now, we’re focusing on how to read sheet music properly and do hand signs,” Fitzgerald said. “[We’re] really just making sure that we’re filling in any basic gaps in music knowledge that anyone might have.”
All three groups in the music department are planning to edit students’ playing into ensemble performance videos in replacement of in-person concerts. Still, many students and teachers are disappointed about the cancelation of annual events such as Holiday Spectacular, Tiny Tots and the orchestra’s Halloween concert. Chantilly musicians will also miss the authentic emotion conveyed through the in-person concerts that edited videos unfortunately lack.
“No matter how much we try to create an ensemble setting, it’s going to be very mechanical and not organic,” band director Douglas Maloney said.
Another drawback for the music department is the struggle to keep the tight-knit community connected, since the time spent preparing for performances together allowed everyone to get to know each other and become a family.
“I miss being with my friends a lot, especially hanging out during the marching band,” sophomore Jocelyn Cheung said.
Determined to conquer the downsides of online learning, the music department uses this opportunity to help students grow as musicians independently. Self-recording homework assignments on platforms like Flipgrid allow students to concentrate more on perfecting their skills.
“I like the independence,” Cheung said. “I feel like I can hear my flute better and stay in tune easier.”
Teachers have also been encouraging students to be more well-rounded.
“We want to help our students grow not only as technical musicians, but also as musicians who can problem-solve and guide themselves more independently through a process,” Maloney said. “In a performance-based class with an ensemble component that is really hard to replicate, we want to give the students a chance to not only develop their own skills but also to reflect on how they are improving themselves.”