RANDOLPH, NJ-  When Randolph High School closed on March 13 due to the pandemic, RHS music teachers, who also direct the high school concerts, were forced to adapt for their stay-at-home students. Music is a challenging subject to teach remotely, but the teachers quickly got creative, finding innovative ways to maintain engagement from students in the music program.

“Because no form of telecommunication is completely instantaneous, simultaneous music making—singing, playing instruments together—isn't possible right now,” said Matthew Swiss, director of the RHS choir. “All of our ensemble music classes have had to change daily class activities because singing our choir music together or playing our band and orchestra music together can't happen through [Microsoft] Teams or any other video conferencing platform.”

The music directors at RHS had to rethink how they delivered lessons to make up for the fact that classes would not meet in person for the rest of the school year. One solution came in the form of FlipGrid, a video submission tool, that allowed the teachers see the results of the students’ practicing.

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“I assign portions of the music to the students each week via FlipGrid,” said music teacher Diana May, who directs the RHS symphonic winds orchestra. “They then send me back a video recording of themselves performing.”

Mastering this new video procedure required music students to get used to a different workload and a new method of handling their music classes.

“We can’t meet in person, so that takes out a huge part of the program,” said Connor Powell, who plays euphonium in the RHS wind ensemble. “The only way that we could continue to work with band stuff is to practice at home.”

 “My symphonic winds class has been doing a March Madness type of activity during our live classes,” May explained.  “I introduce some pieces that are considered to be classic literature for wind band in each class.  Then the students listen to recordings of the pieces, respond to some prompts, and vote for which pieces they want to advance in the tournament.  We have a bracket and everything.  The students seem to be enjoying it.”

When the school closure was extended through the rest of the school year, all live concerts and events were canceled, with no confirmed performance alternative as of press time. “Those, unfortunately, can't be replaced,” May said.  “We were due to compete in the Region Concert Band Festival on March 17th, but that got canceled due to the school closures. The music staff is planning some ways to recognize the work our students have done this year and honor our seniors differently.”

Editor's Note: Ethan Powell is a student at RHS participating in a journalism program with Tapinto Randolph