How are music professors adjusting to COVID-19?

Breanna Cataldo, General Assignment Reporter

Life got hectic for some students when classes switched to an online format due to the pandemic, but it wasn’t just the students who were affected. 

Professors all had to learn new technicalities as well as figure out how they can make the transition easier on students. While all professors had to make drastic changes, the music professors had to figure out a way to teach students how to use an instrument via Zoom. 

A UNF professor of applied individual classical voice lessons, James Hall, shared how this transition changed his classes monumentally: 

“I teach one on one voice lessons. […] When I am with a student, the class is usually split into two halves. The first half, I am on the piano and the student and I work together on technical adjustments. We talk about voice technique and language. The second half is when the pianist comes in and we work their solo repertoire together, collaboratively,” said Hall. “The biggest change due to all of this, is that we can no longer do that.”  

Music professors are having to reconstruct their courses in a variety of ways, none exactly like the other. While some professors are trying to find ways to still have their students perform via Zoom, others have switched to research assignments about the course. 

A chorus class professor, Holly Hammond, has all of her classes doing different research assignments that still apply to what they were scheduled to learn. Although they can’t all perform together, they are still learning and improving. 

Chorale has been continuing with their study of Carmina Burana by completing listening assignments. Along with a recording of each section, they are asked to respond to three questions in detail about what they listened to. Some of the questions are historically relevant, some involve the content of the text and there are also some questions about the composer himself,” Hammond said. 

Hammond also has some of her students submitting individual rehearsal videos, similar to Hall’s technique. 

Hall, as an individual voice instructor, has been playing a key on the piano, and allowing his student to continue singing in that key via zoom.

“My goal was to alter my student’s lives as little as possible, in terms of their education, while all of this was going on. I can’t play the piano the entirety of them singing like I used to, mainly because Zoom has a delay. Instead, I play a key on the piano and allow the student to respond by singing,” he said. 

Although the courses changed inevitably, Hall doesn’t believe it has hindered the progression of his students. 

“I wouldn’t say all of this has hindered the learning process. I’d say it’s changed it. We’ve just had to alter the way we learn,” Hall said. 

Instrumental professor, Erin Bodnar, thinks differently. Bodnar, who teaches wind symphony, concert band, and basic conducting says that all classes are about making music together. 

“They’re not able to apply their skills when communicating with musicians,” Bodnar said. 

Bodnar, similar to other music professors, has her students play their instruments one at a time and then allows her students to critique. 

“It’s possible to play instruments on Zoom, as long as they’re taking turns playing. We have to change the settings from ambient noise though, or else Zoom would block it out,” Bodnar said. 

Bodnar also has her students doing virtual band assignments. 

“With everything going on, the learning process has definitely been hindered. The teaching process too. There’s obviously solo instruments, but we can’t practice together.” She said. 

There have been some positive changes to some of Bodnar’s classes, though. 

“There were some exciting things. In Wind Symphony, we could do stuff we normally wouldn’t.” She said. “We had a composer zoom in and talk about his music, we were able to use the chat function on Zoom to communicate and it made students feel more connected.” 

Bodnar isn’t teaching any summer classes, but she hopes things are back to normal for UNF by audition time in August.


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