VACAVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — Teachers throughout the state are diving into ways to develop online learning methods. But what can they do when what’s being taught requires interacting with others?
The Sylvan Singers at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville live for performing on stage, like at last year’s spring concert. But the whole idea is to feed off one another, which is not possible now that classes and rehearsals are canceled.
“We are starting to feel the isolation and the impact of the quarantine for sure,” said Colby Hawkins, the director of choirs for the Vacaville Unified School District.
That has not stopped Hawkins from exploring ways to extend the choir’s school season.
“What most students enjoy about the choir program is making music together and there’s something magical about making music together and that was the part I was worried about,” Hawkins explained.
So, he took a page from other school choirs and put together a choir performance for a YouTube audience.
As many have learned over the past weeks, holding meetings or other group activities online has its challenges and it was no different with the Sylvan Singers. Conferencing programs did not work because there was audio lag.
“You have to work harder but it improves us as singers,” said choir member Andy Millan, who also said the project helped fill the hours he had nothing to do while confined to his home.
Choirmaster Victoria Nichols, a senior this year, regrets that she will not be able to finish out her high school choir career in a normal fashion but cherishes the time she put into the project.
“I think this has taught me a lot about communicating with other people not in person. I think this is a good learning opportunity,” Nichols told FOX40.
She will study music next year at NYU and anticipates auditioning for scholarships remotely so this experience will be valuable.
As for Millan, he relishes spending time with what has become a second family. Interacting through teleconferencing and group phone calls keeps that connection to the choir going.
“The bonds you make, it’s so nice to be with them,” Millan said.
Hawkins had to take individual performances and splice them together. Keeping the tempo and tone consistent was a challenge since singers could not hear each other or feed off each other’s performances.
Hawkins’ prior training as a recording engineer also helped.
“I had a unique opportunity to use those skills,” he told FOX40. “I had a lot of fun.”
While it was not perfect, even after hours of work, the process of conferencing online and on the phone helped choir members keep connected.
“It was really worth it. I miss being with everybody and it’s really tough to do choir,” said choir member Victoria Nichols. “I hope it can bring people some joy in this rough time.”
“I think doing it on YouTube has given us some sort of medium to recognize these singers and have them feel like they’re part of the group still,” Hawkins said.
The choir has not stopped looking for various technologies to make their performances better. Most recently, Will C. Wood put out a virtual school rally online to keep students engaged and part of that online rally was the choir’s performance.