Music education looks much different this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Keys & Kingdoms applauds the work of band and choir teachers in the Janesville (Wisconsin) School District who are among those who have had to adjust their teaching methods to accommodate distance learning and safety precautions.
These days, the only instruments heard in middle and high school band rooms are those played by teachers. Students, meanwhile, will continue to learn and practice virtually until mid-January, per a school board decision last month.
When students are in person, Wiele teaches most of his classes in the auditorium instead of the band room so students can spread out. His largest class has about 60 students, which makes playing as a group more difficult, especially at a distance.
“I didn’t realize how much being spaced out affects hearing because … music is really collaborative, and you’re always doing it in synchronicity with everybody else around you based on what you’re hearing,” Wiele said.
“It was challenging, but at least we were together.”
In a typical year, Wiele and Parker High School choir director Matt Knutson focus on group performances, teaching singers to make one cohesive sound. This year, the focus has been on individual skill-building.
“I’ve decided that the best way the kids are learning this year is just, we can’t really collaborate,” Wiele said. “It’s like if we were to talk at the same time on the phone, you can’t hear each other. Now multiply that by 60 kids all playing at the same time with varying internet speeds—it’s kind of like a nightmare.”
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