Gladstone band instruction evolves during distance learning
Gladstone High School band teacher Seth Arnold feels like a first-year teacher again. Distance learning has meant an end to daily group rehearsals, live performances, guest conductors, master classes and travel to Eugene for the All-State Honor Band. So, he's teaching band in new and different ways.
"We have focused more on individual technique, music theory, guided listening and writing about music," Arnold said. "Next we will be digging into composition."
The group considered outdoor rehearsals. However, given the lack of access for some students, the recent spread of the virus and the start of Oregon's fall rains, band remains entirely online for now.
For Arnold, the most drastic difference has been the reprioritization of social/emotional health, which takes conscious effort and planning in a distance learning environment.
"The most important thing this program provides to our students is a safe space to make friends and work together toward a common goal. We've lost hours of time together that we can never get back," he said. "To make up for this, I've tried some different online things such as Storytime with Mr. and Mrs. Arnold and streaming video games for the kids on the weekend. They get to chat with each other and make fun of my poor gaming skills."
Students are coping with online school in a variety of ways, from spending time together in socially distanced ways to playing games online and chatting. Most are just trying to hold out until school gets back to normal.
"Some positive things have come from this challenging situation," Arnold said. "A few students have played their instruments even more that they would have during regular school. Others are learning new instruments on their own."
So far, the band has had only one opportunity to perform "together." High school musicians each recorded their own track to a short chorale. Then Arnold spent 11 hours mixing the 30 seconds of music into a group performance at bit.ly/GHSband2020.
"It was quite a lot of work, but the reaction from the kids, their parents and the community has been worth it," he said. "Listening to the piece brought us a ray of sunshine, because it was the first time we've heard the kids play together in over seven months."
Check out a Storytime with Mr. and Mrs. Arnold at youtube.com/watch?v=qnMD8CvjnnE.
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