Professionals helped keep Bexley students in tune during remote learning

Chris Bournea
ThisWeek
The New Albany Symphony Orchestra conducted a Zoom workshop for Bexley students earlier this year while students were in remote learning.

Bexley City Schools students spent much of this school year in either remote or hybrid learning before returning to in-person classes in March after spring break.  

Music teacher Bill Manchester kept students engaged by having them record, compose and produce music remotely. The students also attended virtual sessions with professional musicians.  

Manchester attributed the students’ ability to produce original music to the district’s 1:1 program in which every student received a device to use in class and at home.  

Music students used software such as Soundtrap to record and create beats that “loop,” or repeat, Manchester said. 

“They could just use the microphones and the cameras (on their devices) through this software and add loops,” he said.  

In addition to the individual projects, students also participated in group projects, Manchester said. 

“We did some virtual choir performances and in-class performances where I recorded small parts. All of the recording was over Zoom,” he said. “Sometimes we had a hybrid thing going where we had someone in class playing instruments and someone on Zoom singing.” 

On the days that students weren’t in class together, they posted videos of their music on virtual platforms that allowed interaction, Manchester said. 

“Once someone posted their video, anyone could like it and comment. The kids really liked that,” he said. “We had some lessons on encouraging each other, proper social media etiquette.” 

Students also participated in virtual workshops featuring professional musicians and dancers, including the New Albany Symphony Orchestra; choreographer Sean Johnson with cellist Sophia Petrov; and Latin jazz artist Leo Morales. 

“I was looking for a diverse kind of representation. Leo is someone I’ve worked with for several years. I’d seen him work with kids and perform before,” Manchester said. “A Latin jazz from Colombia is not necessarily something they’re exposed to in their own homes.” 

By having the New Albany Symphony Orchestra perform for the students via Zoom, the students were able to interact with the music without breaking the musicians’ concentration, Manchester said. 

“Classical music has a reputation as the type of music you sit down and listen to. That’s not how the kids are listening to music,” he said. “They were able to move around, and it didn’t disturb what the symphony was doing.” 

Karen Kelly, a Cassingham Elementary School kindergarten teacher, said the dance session with Johnson and Petrov also combined music and movement, which her students responded to with enthusiasm.  

“I love how the students were able to interact with the music, the story and the movements all at the same time,” Kelly said. “It was very engaging, and they were able to see how the music fit with the feelings of the story. They were given the creativity to make their own moves and really explore the connections between music, literacy and movement.” 

Kelly’s students said the dance session helped them learn about how music inspires dance and storytelling and vice versa.  

“It was so much fun to move and listen to a story at the same time,” Camden Wolfe said. 

“We got to answer questions and make the story our own,” Noah Licker said.  

“The music was so mysterious,” Lisa Antwi said. “It was fun to watch all the classes dance together.”  

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