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COVID-19 and Music Education

When someone says “coronavirus,” numerous thoughts come to my mind, a significant one being the swift lockdown in March, bringing us two weeks of virtual learning. Or so we thought. It was assumed that there would be a safe and speedy return to school, but evidently, this was not the case.

I was reluctant to have online classes, especially orchestra. Being a junior at Central Bucks East, enamored with music and always excited to learn something new, I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of playing from

home. It was definitely not a perfect solution. I remember sitting on the carpeted floor of my basement guest room, learning easier pop and film pieces to coast us through the end of the year.

This was the case with pretty much all of my classes. However, a major difference between the two it’s arguably much harder to teach music education to large groups from a distance than to teach, say, biology or math (at least in my opinion). The process of grasping information in developing one’s musicality can’t be taught from a textbook.

That being said, the standards for music instruction had to be adapted to fit the current circumstances, which obviously would make it a more difficult task to meet the needs of students. As a high schooler, I’ve been

playing for eight or so years and have had plenty of immersion through the rehearsals, private lessons, or concerts. I feel as though I’ve developed my skills playing viola enough to advance at my instrument. I still learn plenty, but more for technique and expression, such as dynamics and bowing style. I no longer need guidance with basics (e.g., learning notes and rhythms).

But what about those just starting off who do? I’m concerned for the next generation of music students—when will they be able to get the full experience? Will they develop just as those before them? While I believe there is a healthy balance of teacher instruction and independent exploration required to properly achieve discipline, the course of current music education puts this balance at risk. Students, if they are not guided enough by teachers, could learn improper technique, setting them back. Kids need a certain level of teacher instruction, so that they are pushed enough in order to truly get a good understanding of their studies. It’s harder to achieve that in a large Zoom class.

For a few years now, I’ve been at a stage in my musicianship where I like to explore on my own. I can still get something out of my orchestra class, but I prefer to play the more challenging pieces in chamber strings, or to play songs I like. I look to artists who have mastered their craft and draw from them. I started to discover my own style during the peak of the pandemic. What will beginning instrumentalists have as their pandemic musical experience?

That’s what I want for the new generation: learning and growing to a place where they feel confident enough to adventure beyond the safety of the basics, where they can pave their own paths, and make their own contributions to the world of music. And it’s interesting to see how playing through a pandemic is going to impact students.

My advice to young musicians—whether you just started playing an instrument in school this year, this month, or yesterday—is just have fun with it. By giving yourself that enjoyment, you begin to recognize the beauty in what you do. The reason you learn the basics that you do right now is so you can build on them and get better, so you master your instrument and find your style.

SIC Members: Remember you can sign up for one-on-one virtual lessons with our student tutors! It's a great way to make sure you aren't misunderstanding any of the fundamental techniques taught in your Zoom band and orchestra classes.

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