By Carol Earnhardt
Virtual Rehearsals, Concert, and After Party
Last August, in 2020, the board members of my community choir, the Heart of Triad Choral Society (Kernersville, North Carolina), looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I wanted to have weekly rehearsals on Zoom and give a live “virtual” concert in December. But, we did it! We met once a week, rehearsed some great music, played many games, and laughed . . . a LOT. We were joined by new members from Texas, Florida, and Canada! It was the coolest thing to have singers from outside our little North Carolina town join us each week for rehearsals – something that would not have happened had we been in person.
On a December night, we all watched the concert together on a Zoom webinar application and on Facebook live. At last count, the concert has been seen by nearly 4,000 people – with many audience members from outside the United States. We’ve NEVER had an audience that large. We had an after-party on Zoom following the performance – a great idea! We drank wine, sang Christmas carols, told jokes, and bragged about the concert. Comments made at that party, emails I received the entire month of December, and cards that were sent in the mail confirmed what I knew all along – the concert was wonderful . . . but it was the weekly rehearsals that brought great light to a time of deep darkness.
Choral Lifelines Continue to Be Important
Last week, I had an hour-long conversation with one of my choir students – a senior who was failing multiple classes and had completely stopped attending classes on Zoom. “Lillie” had been my student since she was a freshman. She was a bright, energetic, friendly girl . . . before COVID. I made a phone call to her that day to find out what was going on with her since I had not seen her in two weeks.
This was not the first time I had called her this year about her sporadic attendance, but I was extremely concerned this time because of her failing grades in classes she needed to graduate. “Lillie” poured her heart out to me. She was depressed. In our conversation, she told me that I was the only adult with whom she could be honest. By the end of the conversation, we had a plan to help her catch up in her required classes, and I am happy to say that she is back on the path to graduate in June. The relationships we build with our choir members through music are strong. These relationships have been critical in helping students adjust to their new reality and in keeping them engaged in learning.
A Virtual Coffee House for Students and Parents
We all have tried to make this year semi-normal for our students. In September, the arts department at my school held our first “virtual” coffee house. Students were assigned a theme based on one of the tenets of social-emotional learning. Some themes included “To Walk in Another Person’s Shoes,” “Who I Am,” and “A Year in Reflection: Lessons I’ve Learned in Quarantine.” Visual art, dance, theater, band, and chorus students recorded performances based on the theme of the month – many of the students created original works for their performance. Once a month, all the students and parents would gather on Zoom to enjoy the performances and socialize over a cup of coffee (or cocoa). The monthly departmental meetings have been a hit. This idea is a “silver lining” tradition that we will continue long after the pandemic is over.
Carol Earnhardt has been the director of choral activities at Robert B. Glenn High School since 1998 and has served as the artistic director for the Heart of the Triad Choral Society, a community choir in Kernersville, North Carolina, since 2016.