On March 13 when it became real that we would not have any spring concerts it was a big hit to the soul.
One thing that every director loves is the final product, the coming together, the last production…..The Concert. It is the chance to have all the hours of practice and preparation be put together nonstop and the chance to hear it all with everything you have put into it. It is also the chance to show off soloists and honor students who have stood the test of time.
Most high schools and colleges have their spring concerts in April and May and take time to show appreciation for the seniors who have become leaders in their organizations. This spring of 2020 has struck a very dissonant chord with directors and students everywhere, not allowing a live performance or in-person conferring of awards to very deserving musicians.
In our Chequamegon Bay area, we have many young ones who participate in choirs, bands, and orchestras. Truthfully, we have a great artistic culture here and our schools and families have produced fine performers who continue to grow in their skills. You will be happy to know that music education is still happening with COVID19. The change in teaching has been a bit of a challenge but music-making still carries on.
Rick Seppa, band director in the Washburn school district has been learning the challenges of Google Classroom and admits that, after 30-plus years of teaching, he never saw this as his means of communicating music education.
Brett Hulmer, band director at Ashland High School, has students sending in videos of practicing instruments and performing technique assignments so he can assess progress. He is also using Google Meet to hold individual instrument lessons and has expressed frustration with not being able to hear larger groups all at once.
Myself, director of music at Northland College, have made my first attempt at a virtual choir performance and learned that I need to study video and audio editing more. I have had some success with individual piano lessons via Google Hangouts and love seeing my young students’ progress.
We have tried having everyone sing on a platform called Big Blue Button and I have downloaded the app called Acapella and am trying that out with small groups finding that it takes great listening skills and overcoming fears of hearing and seeing yourself on camera to make something musical.
In our Chequamegon Bay community, we have many folks who are taking hits economically. The performing musicians and groups are amongst the many small business owners who are trying to figure out additional income.
To combat this we are seeing Facebook Live performances popping up. We are seeing YouTube videos with strong musical messages done by our area performers. We are even seeing Zoom classes on salsa dancing via the Washburn Meditation Center. The Tiny Tent Show performances from Big Top Chautauqua have been fun to listen to. Friday Happy Hour performances coming out of the Liz Woodworth’s and Jeff Kriner’s dining room have been raising money for many charities in our area while continuing their daughter Emily’s music education as she learns to play electric bass with them.
Northland College is offering a course during the May term called Pandemic! Northland Unites in which there will be a lecture by Joel Glickman offering poetry and music for these times.
No matter what happens, music will continue on! Music education may come in a different form at this time. Music watching may also come in a different form.
There is no doubt that the full experience of music-making cannot be replicated in a virtual world but I am truly amazed at what has been happening in our Chequamegon Bay area as we struggle to live in a more “inside” world.
I encourage you to escape by whatever means you have in making and enjoying music. As for the “unfinished symphony” of our Senior musicians; know that you are loved and appreciated! In 2020 you may have to write the ending of this piece yourself. Know that the time will come for recognition of all the efforts you have already and will continue to make.
Chris Hulmer is the adjunct director of choral and instrumental ensembles.