Adaptation in a time of crisis

I’ve been writing a blog post once a month as a challenge to myself and I’ve got to say that this month’s entry has been the most difficult. Like everyone, I have been shocked and saddened by the spread of Covid-19 and the resultant fear, greed, and panic that seems to be the default setting of our daily lives.

                On the other hand, I have also seen courageous health care professionals stepping in to provide aid and comfort and watched as educators of all disciplines have reacted to the crisis by rolling up their sleeves and going to work to provide online content for their students.

                It’s these educators of whom I wish to write about and recognize for their creativity and poise during this crisis. Many of my colleagues in music education have problem solving on an inherently unsolvable problem; how to teach music remotely? While the technology has developed that allows for communication and learning across distances for most subjects, disciplines that require instantaneous interaction between human beings is still a bit lagging. Sure, technologies that allow for video conferencing can connect a studio teacher with a single student, but even these have their issues. Streaming can buffer or distort pitch and sometimes allowances must be made for things that would flow seamlessly during a face-to-face lesson. Overall, this technology works well and provides a substitute for in-person instruction during a time that demands social distancing.

                However, the ability to teach ensembles well via distance technology eludes us. I can point to several examples of virtual choirs and other performance groups that have found ways to adapt to the challenges of this technology, and even as I write this blog entry there are music educators engaged in debates among many platforms about how to make this very technology work in an ensemble setting. I am amazed at the creativity and inventiveness of music educators who are trying work a solution to this problem. These teachers are committed to finding a solution that brings their students back to making music together as a group. What’s truly inspiring to me is that I see educators (like myself) who are not perhaps the most tech savvy in the profession adapting quickly and jumping into this new era with both feet.  When this technology does catch up to our need for virtual, instantaneous ensembles (which I firmly believe that it will) these will be the leaders in the profession who adopt the new platform and create new and exciting ways to make music across great distances.

                When this crisis is over and we can return to our daily lives, let us not forget how teachers found creative ways to adapt to a rapidly changing situation and were leaders in the lives of their students. Let us not forget how we all turned to various types of art (music, literature, film, television, and visual art) to provide us with comfort and entertainment while distancing at home. Above all, let us not forget that courage and kindness are surely the antidote to fear and panic. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I hope that you and your family continue to be safe and healthy.

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