In late August, the Ontario Music Educators’ Association along with the Ministry of Education announced that as a COVID-19 safety measure there would be no playing of wind and brass instruments or singing permitted in Ontario classrooms.
So Huntsville High School (HHS) had to get creative.
“In addition to cancelled band competitions, field trips, concerts, and other events, the news that we would no longer be able to play the instruments we love on a day-to-day basis was heartbreaking,” said music teacher Benji Jordan. “HHS has always had a fantastic music program built around the standard concert band and jazz band model as well as vocal music programs. Obviously, the impact on our programming has been huge.”
Local elementary schools Spruce Glen and Irwin Memorial in Dwight stepped in and lent HHS almost 40 guitars, and after some creative thinking they were able to adapt their programming to a guitar, percussion, and digital music model.
“But nothing can replace the feeling of playing and creating music together. This is where the virtual band comes in,” said Jordan.
Last spring, music teacher Nicole Taylor saw videos of virtual choirs popping up on YouTube during lockdown so wanted to find a way to give her students the opportunity to continue making music together, from their own homes.
Virtual band members learn their music at home and practise playing their individual part to a recording. They then record a video of themselves playing their part while listening to the recording through headphones. This ensures that all students are playing at the same tempo, which is key for successfully combining the videos. Then HHS teachers compile the videos using a video-editing program called Davinci Resolve 16. The end result sounds like a full band performing together as an ensemble.
“We wanted to give students an opportunity to perform music, as a group, in a safe way,” said Taylor. “It’s an important piece to maintaining a sense of community within the high school music program. It’s also a great opportunity for students to keep up the motivation to practise their instruments and work toward a common goal.”
Thirteen students just submitted videos for their first virtual performance of “Joy to the World”. They hope to have twice as many students join the next performance.
Jordan said their goal is to make the videos available for the entire school as well as the community at large through social media closer to Christmas: @HHSmusic3 on Twitter and @huntsville.hs on Instagram.
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