Are we there yet?
No, of course. Our rehearsal shutdown will continue through at least April 24. I wanted to give you an update on what the faculty is working on to keep your chorister engaged with their music education and their peers while we are unable to meet.
I’m going to start by discussing some of the challenges we are facing as opposed to some of the schools that are using remote learning.
First of all, the tools available do not allow us to perform our most basic function: singing at the same time. I have explained this dozens of times over the past few weeks, so let me try to say this as definitively as I can: All of the readily available video conferencing tools, including Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and Google Meet introduce a delay to both the audio and video feeds that makes singing together impossible. The delay is not debilitating for meetings or any sort of lecture-based class, but anything that requires even two people doing something at the same time impossible.
The next challenge that we have is that we don’t have training readily available to us. Both my kids are doing remote learning right now, but when their schools shut down the first thing they did was spend two or more days giving their teachers a crash course in setting up for online learning. The good news for us is that several of our faculty members went through this training with schools they are working for. Their experience helps us all, but re-disseminating that information is taking some time. A lot of it, though, we’re just figuring it out on our own. We’ll get there, but we’re not there yet.
So, what are we doing, then? Well, as you hopefully know already our first step was to put together study materials in the form of recordings that the girls could sing along with, covering all the different vocal parts. The SGC conductors will be in touch with families at least once a week to give specific practice suggestions and set goals.
I held a Zoom “rehearsal” with Prime Voci the other day. We really just talked about strategies for coping – there was no music making attempted – but it was reassuring to see people’s faces. Because of that, we are going to try to set up weekly video check-ins for each choir. This will be a chance for the conductor to elaborate on goals and what to work on, and to assist with particular passages if needed. As much as anything, though, it is my hope that those meetings keep some small sense of community going… that there is a larger world out there, and that other people are going through the same things.
Yesterday we got hooked up to the Google Applications for Education. That means that we are able to set up Google Classrooms for each choir level (and for the whole organization as well). This is actually very exciting for me, as I think it has vast potential beyond the end of this shutdown. It’s still very much a work in progress, though – some faculty members have taught numerous classes using these tools, some of us have never seen them before! My hope is that we can get the classrooms rolled out to you next week.
Right now, I am working on a “Virtual Choir” project with Prime Voci and Sorella. I’ve sent them a video with a piano track and me conducting, and they send me a video of themselves singing their part over it. Then I take all those individual videos and edit the audio together, and the same with the video. I’ll share the results with everyone as soon as it’s done (early next week?), but I’m also using this as a learning project so that we can do a similar project with EVERYBODY!
So, things are in motion. It might feel like nothing is happening, but the reality is that we are spending huge amounts of time and effort into making things work for everybody… Please look for more information about all of this soon.
I hope you are all staying healthy and sane during these crazy times. I must say, as stressful as it is, I also find encouragement in seeing how this kind of adversity can bring out the best in people.