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Estacada School District performing arts students and teachers share their experiences with virtual school

COURTESY PHOTO - River Mill Elementary School teacher Daniel Czyzewicz teaches students about country western music through the Estacada School District's virtual school program.

Theater and music students are accustomed to spending time on the stage of the Estacada Auditorium, but recently their efforts have included performing monologues, designing character makeup and recording themselves playing instruments from their own homes.

Like other classes in Estacada and across the state, the Estacada School District's music and theater programs have moved online to facilitate social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Estacada High School music teacher Rendell Frunk and River Mill Elementary School music teacher Daniel Czyzewicz have been striving to blend technology into their lessons.

Frunk has been using a program called Smart Music, in which students play a song and receive feedback about their notes and rhythm. Czyzewicz has been creating video lessons, including ones in which he wears outfits inspired by styles of music and discusses songs in that genre.

"I give them a little bit of the history of that style of music, I'll perform some music for them in that style, and we'll talk about the instruments that we hear and the musical elements of those styles," he said. "And then from there they go out on their own and listen to music in that style, and they journal about it and they report back to me and say 'this is the music I listened to, and this is how it sounded to me.'"

Estacada High School drama teacher Jordan Collins gives students a list of theatre activities to choose their assignments from each week.

"Students can explore the parts of theatre they're most interested in," she said, noting that recent options have included designing makeup looks for a character; creating "musiclogues," or lyrics from songs read as monologues; and performing scenes alone or with classmates on Zoom.

Students have particularly enjoyed theater assignments that involve creating videos of them working with their families. Sophomore Adelia Jeppeson said her favorite task was acting out a scene from "The Hobbit" with her brother, Estacada High School graduate Neal Jeppeson, and sophomore Ayla Zallee appreciated playing theater games with her family.

"It was very challenging and very fun," Zallee said.

Estacada High School's Thespian Society has also remained active during this time, holding meetings through Zoom.

"It's nice to see everybody. Seeing them online, they're still there and it's nice to see them, but it's not the same as face-to-face," said sophomore Isaiah Watkins. "The biggest switch has been not seeing everybody as usual."

Sharing performances

PMG FILE PHOTO - Estacada theater students Ayla Zallee and Irelynd O'Neill  had lead roles in last fall's production of 'Freaky Friday.'

Both Frunk and Czyzewicz plan on creating videos of students performing songs to share with the community.

"We'll learn a song individually, and then students will record themselves performing their piece of that song, and then we'll compile one video that will be shared with the community," Czyzewicz said.

"These kids signed up (for music classes) because they want to be in performance groups and they liked that aspect of it. We're trying to recreate that in the best way we can, and have a performance and a culminating activity we can share," Frunk added.

Prior to the school closure, Estacada High School's theatre department had been gearing up for their production of "Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic." Initially scheduled as this year's spring play, the comedic show that focuses on members of the Hufflepuff house in the "Harry Potter" universe will now go on in 2021.

"It was disappointing getting pushed back, but I completely understand given the circumstances," said Jeppeson, who plays Wayne Hopkins.

"I look forward to putting on a much better performance, because I'll have a lot more time to work on my character and my acting in general," added Zallee, who plays the show's narrator.

Watkins, who plays Ernie Mac, appreciated working on the play and looks forward to presenting it next year.

"Every rehearsal was a great memory. Being there with everybody was fun," he said.

In the meantime, Czyzewicz and Frunk tentatively expect their classes' performance videos to be online in early June.

"In a time when it's really easy to feel isolated and separated from each other, this does definitely contribute to a feeling of togetherness. Even if (the students) are performing on their own, they know they're going to be a part of something bigger. Seeing the end products, the community gets that same sense," Czyzewicz said. "I think it gives you a good feeling even just as somebody watching."

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