Aside from typical singing or keyboard practice, students in choir and piano are learning more about music history, technique and musicianship, as Ms. Brianne Arevalo, the choir and piano teacher, has been adjusting to the new virtual reality.
She starts all of her classes by playing a musical selection for her students to help them understand the material being studied in class.
Students learn about the history of instruments, styles and composers.
“They gain a better perspective about the overall goal for their sound and how to accomplish that in all of their current and future repertoire,” Ms. Arevalo said.
During class, all the classes work to better their technique and rehearse in preparation for upcoming virtual performances and projects.
Piano students are now able to practice at home thanks to the brand new keyboards the school has provided.
The Vannaires and Chamber Singers are brushing up on their musicianship and working on recordings for planned virtual choir performances which will be posted on the Vocal Department’s YouTube channel that is still in the works.
Zoom meetings pose inevitable challenges and frustrations, like lagging networks and poor internet connections, which prevent students from rehearsing in sync.
To help combat this issue, Ms. Arevalo does her warm up routines for all her classes muted to avoid confusion.
“We are trying to work around it the best we can but there is no substitute for the inspiration and creativity we can generate as human beings together in the same space,” she said.
She also requires students to send in recordings of their practices.
In an attempt to mimic typical classroom interactions virtually, Ms. Arevalo sends feedback to each student to help teach them skills and check their individual progress.
The Vocal Department is also preparing to begin creating musical compositions for their fifth annual Oratorio which will premiere online in the spring semester. A teaser will be posted on their Instagram @vnhs_vocal_program soon.
The Chamber Singers and Vannaires, the intermediate and advanced levels of choir respectively, will be joining other high schools in Los Angeles for a virtual performance in the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s annual High School Festival in May 2021.
“Choir online isn't the easiest to work with,” Ms. Arevalo said.
“Being a performance class, it's difficult to get the same experience at home as in the classroom just because you're isolated from all the other voices,” Chamber Singer Jake Stanley said. “A big part of choir is listening to the other singers and other parts, and virtual rehearsal isn't very conducive to that. However, we're making the best of it that we can.”
COURTESY OF MS. REESA PARTIDA
Making the best of her limited situation, dance teacher Ms. Reesa Partida continues her pre-covid-19 dance class routine, playing music and leading warm ups. She spends the rest of online class teaching techniques, combos and choreography.
Teaching from her classroom on campus instead of from home, Ms. Partida is able to utilize the extra space to demonstrate dances.
“If the students can't necessarily do everything fully, they can still see what it's supposed to look like,” explained Ms. Partida.
With the annual Winter Dance Show cancelled, her classes are focused on getting students to move their bodies and take a break from the long hours of sitting still during other classes.
“I am glad that we still get to have class every day and that we get to be moving around,” Advanced Jazz dancer Elizabeth Zepeda said.
The Musical Theater and Advanced Dance classes are working on video performances.
“My goal is always to create strong dancers who can express themselves through movement no matter their level of technique, and that hasn't changed,” Ms. Partida said. “At the end of most classes I ask my students if they sweat. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it's been a good day.”
Being unable to give corrections and often only seeing half of the students’ bodies through the screen is challenging to Ms. Partida and her students.
“Dance is a visceral thing and not being together changes the whole experience,” she said.
Despite the challenges, the dance classes are working towards an upcoming performance.
Ms. Partida and Ms. Diane Hula, the second dance teacher, are planning to hold meetings with small groups of students. The meetings are for site-specific work on campus with a select group of dancers.
These meetings will maintain social distancing guidelines and all students will be required to wear a mask.
“I think the teachers are trying their best to give us their best dance experience they can through a camera,” Zepeda said. “It’s not the easiest to learn choreography or work together just because Zoom isn’t the clearest way of communicating, but right now I think we are all just trying to come up with new and creative ways to make dance work through a screen.”