Teaching music is generally a hands-on experience — but the Department of Music is experimenting with new methods and working to keep teaching students safely amid the pandemic.
The University delayed the start of in-person undergraduate classes until Feb. 8 as COVID-19 cases rose in North Carolina, and most music classes this semester are set to be fully remote.
After moving online last spring due to COVID-19, the department will continue its effort to keep faculty and students safe during this spring semester. While Department Chairperson David Garcia recognizes this decision might be disheartening for some students, he sees it as an opportunity to advance music education.
“I’m amazed at the level of quality and innovation in students’ work,” Garcia said. “I look forward to more exciting performances and projects being shared online throughout this coming semester.”
To this end, the department has introduced various forms of new technology. One notable innovation was an audio/video pod system with no latency, engineered by production manager Jesse Moorefield and multimedia technician Jay Harper.
Garcia said the system provides a safe way for masked and unmasked musicians to record live performances together. For example, an unmasked woodwind player in one room would be able to record live and synchronously with a percussion or strings player in another room.
“While we will not host live audiences for performances, our music ensembles will perform throughout the semester by either live streaming or airing pre-recorded performances from the department on our YouTube channel,” Garcia said. “In addition, we are considering the possibility of some ensembles performing live outdoors on campus.”
Individually, faculty members have also been working hard to make classes more accessible for online learners. For professor Jocelyn Neal, the process involved prioritizing the safety of faculty, staff and students, while also ensuring students can grow as musicians — even on Zoom.
“I feel good about taking on the challenge to redesign my classes for remote learning this spring, implementing new technologies and new course content and working on strategies so the students and I really get to know each other and fully master our learning objectives for the semester,” Neal said.