Music classes toil major modifications

Maren VanOsdol '22, Staff Writer

MUSIC THROUGH THE SCREEN Students have been using SmartMusic, a website that allows the students to play a song with a recording and submit it to their teachers. “Unfortunately, it isn’t a perfect substitute for real-life ensembles, but it’s probably the best we have under these circumstances,” alto-saxophone player Emilia Cywinski ’22 said. Photo Courtesy of Emilia Cywinski.

Being able to practice as a group is one of the key characteristics of choir and band, but due to social distancing that is no longer possible.
Despite this setback, choir and band have been practicing through quarantine even though they’re not together as a group. New ways to practice and keep in touch have been introduced, and new websites and at-home workouts have led to a more individualistic approach to practicing.
“We use a website called SmartMusic where you can play along to a recording of the song, you can slow down the song if you’re having trouble, and submit recordings of your playing to the teacher,” alto-saxophone player Emilia Cywinski ’22 said. “It’s actually pretty helpful for learning your part in a new piece of music. Unfortunately, it isn’t a perfect substitute for real-life ensembles, but it’s probably the best we have under these circumstances.”
Nothing can replace practicing as a group, but there are some upsides to practicing alone.
“Well, for one thing, it’s a lot faster,” Cywinski said. “In class, sometimes our teacher would focus on one specific section that didn’t involve me, so I’d just sit there without much to do. When you’re by yourself, that problem just isn’t there any more. Also, it can be intimidating to play music with your peers, especially if you don’t know the song too well. But luckily when I’m at home, nobody can hear the wrong notes I play, which is pretty great.”
For choir, students are singing at home by themselves or participating in the activities choir director Chris Pratt has planned. Lyla Paschke ’22, a singer in the Tower Belles, said the choir is overcoming the challenge of social distancing.
“We haven’t been able to meet in person and practice obviously, and since the year is over, we haven’t been learning any new songs,” Paschke said. “I think everyone is looking forward to next season, though. Instead of practicing singing and dancing, we’ve been going through the history of show choir and discussing the evolution of the genre. (Mr.) Pratt took this time to teach us a little more background about what we do.”
Part of show choir is being able to dance and stay in shape, so choreographer Andy Haines has planned at-home workouts for the choir.
“Our choreographer has been sending out workout videos to help us stay in shape and keep the movements in our bodies, but it’s still up to us to practice at home,” Paschke said. “That’s never as easy as practicing in a group because you don’t have a choir environment to keep you on track. But mostly, I don’t think anyone has been “practicing” much because there’s nothing to practice. With the competition season basically over because of quarantine, there’s no material that we need to be learning.”
While singing at home, Tower Belles singer Lilly Geer ’22 is also honoring healthcare workers through a Facebook group.
“On Facebook, my mom found this group under #Quarantunes or #QuarantineSingalong,” Geer said. “She thought it would be fun for me and my friends to do it so we would all stay in touch and have fun singing songs together. They do polls for the song of the day and then everyone posts videos singing the same song, with some people singing outside their windows trying to get others to join in. I ‘Zoom’ my friends around 9:00 p.m. and then my mom posts it at 10:00. It’s required to thank our first responders and front-liners in the video or else they will not post your video.”
Since there’s no face-to-face interaction anymore, keeping in touch is important to groups like band and Tower Belles.
“We have a GroupMe where we send updates and TikToks,” Geer said.
As crazy as this unprecedented event is, the Choir and Band students are adapting to the new reality and continue to grow thanks to their instructors.
“Honestly, it’s just nice to see a familiar face when so much of my time is spent indoors now,” Cywinski said. “And the extra encouragement helps me push through when I’d feel like I wouldn’t want to practice anymore. Overall, learning from home is really tough, but I’m glad our teachers are so supportive.”