What kinds of benefits have you discovered in teaching your classes online?
I find that being able to teach from home brings a whole new level of connection between myself and the students; it feels as if you are welcoming your students into your home to gather and learn. The majority of my teaching lies in the Adult Studies program. As a group, I feel that we all have really enhanced our technology skills to make our instruction continue as seamlessly as possible! It was certainly a learning curve at first, but now, everyone is able to find their way around our video calls like pros!
At first, a major limitation was not being able to hear everyone sing or play in real-time. Instead of accepting defeat, I have taken this as an opportunity. I have generated pre-recorded content to help students feel supported and connected in real-time; I am able to tune in and listen to their progress, while the rest of the group enhances their own skills too! The virtual classes have also encouraged the students to listen to themselves as an individual within the ensemble. Overall, online music teaching has encouraged everyone to be creative in their teaching style and content!
How have you continued to foster a sense of community in your classes?
I made sure to choose repertoire that inspires connection, love, and hope. Singing and playing music that evokes feeling and unity is a sure way to bring each other together through music. I have also welcomed our classes to engage in discussion with one another, taking time to chat about our personal lives and to check-in; there is a lovely component of the community that has developed in the Adult Studies program and I wanted to make sure that virtual classes felt the same way as it did when we were in the same room. I find that communication is very important during these isolating times.
Another thing I like to do is to schedule group classes to overlap with other meeting times; this brings everyone together with friends that they have not seen since concert time! It always puts a smile on my face to see everyone on the same screen, jamming and making music together from afar.
Another great way to connect students is with projects! I have been creating several “virtual choir” opportunities for the students to connect to each other through recording and viewing their “performance” as a class and to share with family and friends!
We’ve seen some great videos from your Ukulele Ensemble and Glee Club, how has the process of getting those videos made been? How is it working with your husband, Dimitris?
The videos take time and effort, but the end product is SO WORTH IT! We spend a nice amount of time rehearsing in advance. Recording can be very tedious; listening back to yourself singing and playing encourages you to become critical of your work. Practice makes perfect; mastering the piece and feeling comfortable with the repertoire will make the recording process much more enjoyable!
Recording, to most of my students, is brand new; to ensure success, we discussed microphone technique, vocal style, and how to physically engage with the audience when you perform. I always suggest to my students to record the audio first. This way, they can really focus on getting the best quality sound for their piece. After the vocal or instrument audio is complete, I then give them the go-ahead to record their video. My husband, Dimitris, and I will then sit and pair the vocal track to their video and then edit all of the content together to create the virtual choir. Working with Dimitris is something that brings me so much joy; we love to collaborate on projects and it is something we do quite often. This is such a joy for us to work together, using our skills to generate the end product.
Any upcoming videos in the works?
We actually just completed our biggest virtual project yet! The Adult Studies Musical Theater Workshop put on a virtual, world premiere of the musical Family Reunion, written by PCM student, Donald Russell Robertson. The cast consisted of eight leads who worked together to record vocal selections and scene work from the show. We presented it live for family and friends virtually! It was such an honor to work with a new piece of theatre and to have the composer be a part of the cast and creative process. Everyone involved was so thrilled to see it all come together.
In this period of uncertainty, what kinds of classes or projects would you like to explore in the near and distant future?
I am so excited to work on brand new repertoire with Adult Studies in summer. We are doing all original arrangements with assistance from the students for creative input; giving ownership to the students and seeing their imaginations run wild has been so rewarding. I am also teaching in the Young Musicians program this summer, and it is so thrilling to see the young children navigate the technology! They are better than me! Since we are all working from our homes, it would be amazing to do some sort of virtual collaboration with the youth programs and the adult students…. Perhaps a virtual choir is in the near future…..