By: Ragan Love
Remote learning is a big transition for a music major. Most of my learning is hands-on. My classes consist of performing with and for my peers and learning how to play the piano and sing. These classes have always been in-person and this is the first time students and teachers have moved learning online. Some of my classes had little change while others are drastically different.
Performance courses look very different online. All undergraduate music majors are required to enroll in nine terms of Performance Attendance. This is a weekly class where we listen to different musicians and answer questions about what we heard. The School of Music has canceled the class altogether. It is unknown if they will waive the requirement this term or if we will all have to take an extra term when we are back on campus.
Another weekly class that I take is Studio Class. This is where I get to hear what the other flute performance majors (undergraduate and graduate) are working on. The flute professors have put together an unofficial Facebook group where we can post videos of performances for our peers to hear. We had our first session of performances, and it was very nice to hear my friends play and hear their comments about my performance.
The last weekly class that I take is my private lesson with my flute professor. During finals week Dr. Sydney Carlson sent an email to the flute studio members asking questions about our living situations – whether we were practicing with a full house or not – and the technology available to us. Dr. Carlson suggested we record every lesson so we can listen back throughout the week. Currently, I use FaceTime on my computer and record it on my phone. I think this process will work for me but I have only had two remote lessons so far.
Even my non-music major friends have wondered how the music school will offer band class. It is interesting what the director of bands has put together. We will only have two “performances.” They will be more like fun recordings and the band will get to learn more about those when the midterm and finals week approaches.
In the meantime, we are listening to band literature. Every week, the students get a few different pieces to listen to and answer questions about. Then, we have a Zoom meeting to discuss our thoughts about the music. Because we are not performing like usual, most non-music majors have decided not to participate in band this term.
I am also in first-year piano, which is for music majors who came to the university with no prior piano experience. This Spring term we have to complete the Piano Proficiency Exam, which allows music majors to move to the advanced piano classes. Each week, my teacher gives us a class assignment to turn in and then an assignment for the exam. When he sends the assignments he also posts videos of tutorials and videos that show common mistakes. It’s difficult to learn an instrument without having the instructor there with you, but the professor is doing a wonderful job giving us resources and answering questions.
My classes that don’t involve instruments include music theory, sight-singing/aural skills, and first-year honors. Music Theory has had a rocky start as it transitioned to another online platform. The professor is currently trying to use Canvas, which would allow music students to turn in assignments on an online music sheet software. This means that we all need to learn how to operate this software, including the instructor. The past few assignments we have been just to figure out how to write music online. It has been very helpful, but this means we haven’t learned any new content these past two weeks. Luckily, as we enter week three, we will start our spring quarter of music theory content.
Sight-singing is a course that coincides with theory. Students learn how to aurally understand music through dictation and singing assignments. The content for this class has been pretty easy because it drills our current skills. Assignments for this class included turning in recordings of us singing and pictures of our dictation practice.
First-year honors has stayed very similar to what it would have been on campus. I am working on a group and individual project and we are only meeting as a class a few times for check-ins.
With the refund from housing, I decided to take five extra credits, and I picked classes that were already online courses. I am taking American Traditions in Blues and Listening I. American traditions has us reading, listening and appreciating blues music and Listening I is the same concept but for classical music. Since these courses are originally meant for online work, this is the only part of the quarter that seems normal.
I don’t feel like I am getting the education I paid for; however, I am still benefiting from remote learning. Sometimes the School of Music is a little old fashioned when it comes to learning, so this is allowing all of us to learn music technology like music writing software. This experience is reminding me to not take my education for granted because it can drastically change overnight. I am grateful for the professors who are trying to make the best out of this situation, but I hope that I can be back performing with my classmates in the fall.