Dear New School Families,
As we enter what many people call the most wonderful time of the year, I wanted to highlight our music teachers. From Mr. Troy to Ms. Ashley to Mr. Austin, with Ms. Luz on piano and Mr. Matt on drums, our students are exposed to the wonder of music throughout their education at The New School. The performing arts were hit hard by the pandemic and its necessary restrictions, but these teachers were up to the challenges and right away began creating safe ways to bring music to their students, masks and all.
Lower and Middle School music teacher Ashley Wright explains, “Singing, or not singing rather, is definitely one of the biggest challenges I have been faced with this year. Currently, there is no safe way to sing indoors and even standing socially distanced while outside students must wear masks and only sing for brief amounts of time. One of the things that I have always enjoyed the most about teaching music is its “hands-on” approach. Learning by doing, specifically in groups, has always been something musicians practiced. Now with all the COVID safety procedures and guidelines in place, being “hands-on” in music class has been difficult. But with a little improvising, we are making it work. Students are still creating their own music, just using technology more than ever and instead of playing drums, we are using cups and lots of body percussion. Most importantly, students are still learning and still having fun!”
Middle and Upper School teacher Austin Farnam discovered that the restrictions placed on him and his students actually led to some new and exciting ways to experience music. He writes, “In order to follow and surpass guidelines for COVID-19 we have drastically changed the way we rehearse in class. Each musician is spread out between ten and 20 feet. With these kinds of distances, it can be difficult to hear one another and play in sync. To overcome this obstacle, we have turned our rehearsal space into a recording studio so that each student is set up with a microphone and headphones. This allows students to properly hear one another and get a sense of what it is like to work in a recording studio. This new setup has also allowed us to easily record rehearsals and instantly listen back to review and critique performances. This kind of instantaneous feedback has been extremely helpful as students work to improve the overall sound of the ensemble.”
Austin continues, “The recording and review process has been a huge success for us in the classroom. Hearing many of my students say things like, ‘We sound so good’ or ‘I feel like a real professional’ has been rewarding. Watching their abilities and confidence grow has made all of the abnormalities of this year wash away when I'm in the classroom.”
In the midst of uncertainty, anxiety and disappointment, we’re also all finding joy in unexpected ways this year. "We All Sing With the Same Voice" is an old Sesame Street song that long time TNS teachers Margaret Elkins and Ruth Swain introduced to Early Childhood music teacher Troy Schremmer. He sings it to the children all through the year and loves to show them the beautiful picture book by Paul Meisel. Troy explains, “The cover illustration shows the children holding hands and singing together under a big blue sky. Usually, that's how we end the song. We all stand up, hold hands and sing the chorus. These days, the holding hands part tends to get skipped and we keep our distance. However, just the other day Ms. Renee shared with me how a few of her three-year-old students were playing with little wooden figures and putting their hands together. One little boy stopped and shouted, ‘Look! They're singing just like Mr. Troy's book! They're singing together!’”
Music performances have always been a huge part of what makes Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day so important to our community. This year all performances will be virtual with students from ECE all the way to upper school represented in a video currently being made. Mr. Troy says, “As we get ready to sing our songs for grandparents I am regularly reminded, "Oh, Mr. Troy, I don't have a grandpa... I have Pop-Pop and a Mee-Maw!" Ashley’s voice lesson and Morning Music students will sing outside, and the sixth-grade general music class will be playing on the ukulele. She writes, “It has been so awesome and inspiring to see how positive the students have stayed throughout it all.” Austin will have three music videos to showcase student talent from 6th-12th grade for the video. He says, “I am very proud of the hard work my students have put in this semester and I look forward to sharing that with everyone.”
While hand holding and hands-on instruction may be on hold temporarily, music is still being made together throughout the school. We wish you all a Happy Grandparents’ & Special Friends’ Day and a great start to this wonderful time of year.
With Cougar Pride,
The New School Arts Director