RSU 22 Arts Educators Transform Curriculum to Provide Safe and Meaningful Music Education

Music is alive and well in RSU22. Let me start by saying that from the very beginning, the teachers of the arts and the administration never thought of cutting the arts during the pandemic. The question was, “How do we deliver these subjects to our students with quality?”

Before COVID-19, our music program included general music K-5, choruses and bands 5-12, with before or after school jazz ensembles and show choirs 6-12, and Tri-M Music Honor Society at the high school.

During the pandemic, our offerings are the same with the addition of remote classes. However, they look a bit different. Our system is operating under a hybrid system. Half of the students attend in-person Monday and Thursday with asynchronous assignments on Tuesday and Friday. The other half attends in-person Tuesday and Friday with asynchronous assignments on Monday and Thursday. AP classes also meet on Wednesdays remotely and chorus and band students have 1 to 1 sectionals/lessons on a rotating basis on Wednesdays via google meet. The high school ordinarily has 4 blocks per day every other day for 8 total blocks on an A/B day system. This year we are running 4 blocks (A day) every day for 1st and 3rd quarters and the other 4 blocks every day for 2nd and 4th quarter. This is not ideal for skills based classes, but it is better than splitting it by semester and makes things easier to keep track of for both teachers and students.

Elementary music classes are meeting every other week and posting activity choice boards reinforcing musical concepts on the opposite weeks. All music teachers who teach elementary classes have divided up our districtwide remote classes, each of us having 1 or 2. Each elementary student has their own white board, marker, and eraser. Some classes have been given rhythm sticks. Older students are playing melodic instruments such as boomwhackers, tone bells, and glockenspiels that must be wiped down after each class.

Chorus classes are singing outside 14 feet apart unmasked as long as the weather is 40 degrees or higher and not raining. When it is raining or too cold to be outside, we are learning basic piano skills, ear training, humming softly distanced with masks, music theory, listening examples, discussions about song texts, artistry, etc. Their asynchronous lessons include sight singing with “thepracticeroom.net“, learning tracks with practice log, recording themselves for teacher critique, music theory, listening examples, etc. We are also working with our technology department to allow our high school students to work in small ensembles virtually through the Jacktrip foundation.  We have rhythm sections rehearsing in person after school.  We have been working with composer Kris Berg.  He has written several high school arrangements for small jazz ensembles which include interchangeable parts for various instruments.  Students can also play along with the mp3 files of each song Kris has arranged.  Horn players and vocalists have been assigned to each group and are practicing their songs at home.  We are hoping for adjustments to be made to allow our students to play in person using the required PPE.

Bands are learning similar concepts. Some of our bands are playing outside 14 feet apart unmasked. Those not going outside are studying music as it relates to social issues, music history, music theory, rhythm using sticks and drums, ear training, listening to musical examples, recording themselves for critique by teachers, etc.

In the music department, we start on Wednesday mornings together discussing our successes and struggles for the week in order to pass on any things we have learned or to get help with our hurdles. Our K-2 classes all use Seesaw and our 3-12 students all use Google classroom for their work and our district has decided that we will all use google meet for our virtual classes and meetings. We regularly use Google slides, Screencastify, Padlet, Quicktime Player, YouTube, VideoLink, Soundtrap, and now we are exploring Jacktrip to use for virtual teaching with very little time lag.

For our subject area, this is anything but ideal. However, our focus continues to be on how we can foster musical growth in our students and supporting their musical goals.

This story was submitted by Heidi Corliss, Choral Music Teacher at RSU 22 Hampden Academy Visual and Performing Arts Team Leader, with support from Jason Anderson, Maine DOE Visual and Performing Arts Specialist as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. So submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.