The next two blogs are going to review some of the common themes from this blog over the past 6+ months. If you’ve been reading regularly, you’ll know that this series has focused on managing music-making during COVID while also addressing ADEIB. In Part 1 of Commonalities, we will review the logistics of music-making in the past 18+ months, and dive into what our colleagues said about the heart of teaching during COVID.
Singing has continued in some form. Many of us became audio/video editors. We’ve had premieres bumped, or conducted a concert before everything was shut down. Many choral colleagues followed the aerosol study guidelines. This study has been instrumental in helping decide what is safer and what carries too much risk. Some colleagues were asked to be more cautious than recommendations (such as not having in-person classes during the 2020-21 school year or not having a choir during a worship service), and some haven’t been allowed to follow all the risk mitigation procedures recommended (such as not being allowed to require masks in rehearsals). Colleagues have used a mix of Zoom and in-person rehearsals. In-person rehearsals have included physical distancing, masks, limiting rehearsal time, vaccine requirements, and/or regular testing. Choral colleagues have been resilient as they look for ways to promote music making, learning, advocacy, and facilitate emotional growth and support for singers.
In both returning to music making and equity, many interviewees spoke about the importance of relationships and community building. Below, you’ll read some important moments in these conversations discussing community building.
- Mr. Remel Derrick: On the other hand, the community was incredible. “We are in this together” was stronger than Remel had ever experienced with his students. There was a tightening of an already close-knit group …students (and teachers) will be managing post traumatic stress. Knowing this, Remel is planning to leave space for his students to share their experiences. “[It can be] hard to talk about it when you are in the middle,” but afterwards, students may want to share, and may need additional support… He is looking for texts addressing collective grief, singing, and community.
- Ms. Stephanie Gravelle: Some students are struggling with how to have a discussion or work collaboratively. Technique is very important, but right now they need to come into a room that makes them feel happy, safe, and wanted. Her focus will be what it always is: find the heart of her singers and have their hearts connected.
- Ms. Olivia Vestal: As she builds her program, community is one of her priorities… Sometimes community building has looked different than she anticipated… Her approach [is] to try to educate [students] on how to care about individual people in their community, and what that expression of care might look (or sound) like.
- Ms. Amanda Stevenson: But really, it was all about the community. And that, she says, is what the singers need the most.
- Ms. Jazzmone Sutton: “What we do is community,” Jazzmone said, “We should strive to build relationships within our space.” She did that in her teaching, and it’s how she approaches advocacy.
- Dr. Derrick Fox: He knew hybrid learning, masks, and shields would be barriers to connection in Fall 2020, so he created “choir families” for students to build community and process their previous spring.
- Alan: Alan was impressed with how resilient students were, especially since he knows students need community. Related, he’s been grateful for the focus on mental health. They’ve always talked about it at some level, but there has been a deeper dive… He also wishes they had more counselors at his school… there simply aren’t enough of them to provide the academic and mental health support to large numbers of students.
- Dr. Anne Lyman: Dr. Lyman also pointed out that sometimes less music may be performed because there was a higher need for conversation around the music.
- Ms. Maria A Ellis: If we want to keep people singing, we shouldn’t allow anyone to feel bad if they don’t have a certain skill. We, as choral professionals, need to create paths forward.
- Dr. Ahmed Anzaldúa: “For any justice work,” Dr. Anzaldúa said, “there has to be relationship work. Without relationship, it’s charity.” When we discuss equity work, it comes down to relationship. What’s the relationship you have with your singers, administrators, community? More importantly, what relationships are missing? Are the systems in place, whether previously designed or created by you, preventing relationships with people in your space and community? What are your relationships and what are the quality of your relationships? Even social justice-minded people can be unsure of how to respond or who to engage when confronted with a social-justice issue. He has seen that happen in organizations as well. A lot of organizations realized they didn’t have a relationship that would allow them to reach out to a community. It’s important to do authentic outreach, and whether this is in an organization or community, it requires establishing relationships.