How music classes are adapting to online school

Dhwani Porecha, Editorial Board Member

While many are concerned about the impact online school has been making to core classes, not many have considered how virtual learning has affected the arts. It’s harder for the classes that are more hands-on learning compared to those classes that aren’t. So, how are music teachers working towards this new adjustment?

For Jared Tanner, Liberty’s band, percussion, and jazz band teacher, the shift had been tremendously difficult.

“In my classes, my curriculum has had to completely change. I am creating everything from scratch and there is no established model for how to teach music ensemble classes online,” Tanner said.

With the 2020-2021 school year starting completely remotely, education now solely relies on the use of technology. For teachers, technology can be useful or it can be a barrier to teaching. Some teachers are still trying to troubleshoot technical problems, making it difficult for them to help those students who are having the same issues. 

“I think technology is both helpful and a hurdle. The same technology that makes some people feel connected can make others feel left out. I think all of us are having to reevaluate our relationship with our technology right now,” Tanner said.

Also with this new change, teachers are taking unique approaches to online learning as they can no longer follow the old curriculum that they used when school was in person.             

“My students are going to focus more on music production this year as a way to keep making music together when we cannot play in the same room. We are using a program called Soundtrap which is like a music studio in the cloud,” Tanner said. 

As curricula are altered to adapt to online, students are also concerned about grading policies as it is difficult to grade music performance and ability over Zoom versus in person. Students are working hard to achieve the best grades they can, so how are teachers’ grading approaches different now compared to last year? 

“My grading policies have not changed, but the number of assignments I am giving has increased. Because we can’t rely on participatory grades, I need to assign more projects. Many students are not used to band homework, and it is an adjustment for them,” Tanner said.

Despite the revisions in curriculum and grades, the most imperative thing for students is that they are understanding what is happening in their classes. For some students, online learning is less effective than in-person, and it can be challenging to make sure that every student is keeping up with the work and comprehending the material.

“I am not sure yet that my lessons and information are getting through to my students. In music classes, I am used to having instant data all the time about whether students are getting it or not. I can always hear and see how things are going, and I am not used to waiting for assignments and quizzes to see how students are doing,” Tanner said.

The structure and layout of the school schedule can also impact student learning and student-teacher relationships. 

“I wish that Monday and Tuesday were block days like Thursday and Friday. The extra time allows me to better interact with students. I think it also gives students more time in class to get meaningful work done,” Tanner said.

Despite the hardships of remote learning, Tanner believes the online platform our school has chosen works well for his classes. 

“I think there is also quite a bit of good I am taking away from this. There are some tech tools and curricular ideas I will try to keep in my classes when things are back to normal because of my experience this year,” Tanner concludes.