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Virtual learning has created challenges for performance art classes but teachers are making it work

Posted at 11:42 AM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 18:30:09-04

CLEVELAND — Each school year students in performance arts classes work towards concert night, when they get to show off their skills they've gained in class.

But, without a performance in sight, how are teachers making it work?

Vocal music director for Cleveland Heights High School is utilizing technology to the fullest.

"There are numerous different ways to go about this, and you find the one that works the best and you roll with it," Lange said. "No one will tell you that this is easy, but it's not impossible and it's still worthwhile. Arts are important, and this space is important. We're going to do everything we can. It's hard, but it's not impossible."

Lange has been teaching high school music for more than 10 years. He's passionate about his job and wants to see his students succeed - no matter the circumstances.

"We are a community and we are there to support each other and were there to learn and were there to perform and we're going to do that," he said.

To overcome the challenges of virtual teaching and learning, Lange is having his students record themselves singing with their own devices while they meet virtually on Google Classroom. Then, in post-production Lange puts the recordings together as if the students were singing as a group. He said it's a long and difficult process but worth it.

"The world of art is consistently going to be changing, and it's up to us as musicians, as artists to adapt to the position that we find ourselves in," he said.

Over in Parma, at Valley Forge High School, choir teacher Michele Haras is taking a slightly different approach. Her students are putting singing on hold for now and learning the importance of music, studying different topics and complexes.

"We're still going to interact with music. We're still going to have those meaningful relationships. We're going to build that community that we know and love in our ensembles. It just might be through a computer screen. It might be while we're wearing a mask," she said.

Haras said while she would love to be inside the classroom with her students, singing for 48 minutes during class time, she understands it's not quite possible at this time and now is her time to teach students how to connect with music and each other to build a community.

"The arts are going to find a way. Where there's a will, there's a way. What we do as artists is we create based on our environment. So even though our environment may be chaotic or different or digital, we still have that passion and we still have to find a way to channel that," Haras said.

Both Haras and Lange agreed, what they've been handed this year is difficult. Choir wasn't meant for virtual learning, but they're doing the best they can for each and every student.

"Our love of music is still there no matter what, and that's kind of what we have to hold on to," Haras said.

"We can still have positive experiences, even if they're not the positive experience that you were hoping for, that you were expecting for." Lange said.

Cleveland Heights and Parma school districts are working towards having students back inside the classroom five days a week, but what will choir classes look like then? Students will be required to socially distance and wear a mask.

The pair of teachers said they're unsure how they will conduct classes, but just like virtual learning they will figure it out as the weeks move by.