Entertainment Magazine Volume 70, Issue 4

Las Lomas Music Department Goes Virtual

By Kate Beeby

Graphic by Emma Cypressi

With the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, everything has been all but normal. Consequently, all students have been taking their classes online. At Las Lomas, band classes have been affected largely.

The structure of class time has changed due to classes being conducted on Zoom. “Band is similar to what it’s like in-person, except that when we all play together, everyone is muted,” junior Janine Case said. “We use software on our computers to be able to see and listen to the music, then we record ourselves playing it. Essentially, we are all in a group together, but playing by ourselves,” said Case. The Zoom breakout room feature is utilized in class to allow certain sections of the class to collaborate. “Sometimes we have sectionals in breakout rooms where each instrument or instrument family is put together to discuss the music as well,” senior Bryce Yuen said.

Some students have had different experiences transitioning to online classes. Numerous students reported that the transition to virtual classes has been easier than expected. “The transition to online class hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be,” Case said. “If anything, it’s encouraged me to practice more because I don’t have to pack up my instrument to bring it to campus anymore,” said junior Moxie Marsh.

While some students have had smooth transitions, for many, the transition has certainly had its challenges. “It has been incredibly hard,” Senior Sam Geotina said. “It was a class that depended on human interaction or at the very least being able to communicate in real time. Even the smallest amount of lag on Zoom can lead to a huge mess of a band.” Stressing the importance of togetherness, sophomore Grayson Wylie said, “Not playing in person is hard because you cannot get the feel of the piece like you would if you were playing in person.” 

Some students have had major adjustments to make when moving from the band room to virtual learning at home. “For example, in class, we had most percussion instruments handheld, like maracas, or stationary, like gongs, but now it’s a bit odd because most of us just have drum pads at home,” sophomore Fernando Aviles said. As a percussionist, Aviles believes that he was more on the affected side.

The Las Lomas Director of Instrumental Music, Brittany Shankle, acknowledges that the transition to online class has not been easy. “Many students have difficulties in playing their instrument at home because of their households’ daily schedule or nearby neighbors,” Shankle said. “My main focus in all of my classes is to get students playing as much as possible, so they don’t lose any of the playing skills they have built in the last few years.”

Students report feeling a lack of motivation in music classes. “I feel like some students lost some motivation for the class because we’re not all together playing,” Aviles said. “Band is much more of a group class than just a solo class.”

“It feels a lot more disconnected to be in a really social class online,” Marsh said. Students in the music department miss the social aspects of their classes that bring them and their classmates together. “Our class usually has conversations at the beginning of class, but talking to each other through Zoom, especially as a class, is hard,” Case said. “I have had several students tell me that their ensemble classes feel like a family,” Shankle said. “It makes me sad to think that there are some 9th grade students that haven’t even had the chance to experience that yet.”

If Las Lomas transitions into a hybrid learning schedule, classes such as Wind Ensemble will most likely be split into two sections to comply with county-ordered capacity limits. “The hybrid schedule will greatly impact what our classes look like because our ensembles will only have half of the members present at one time, which will affect our instrumentation,” Shankle said. “For example, we have one tuba player in our Wind Ensemble, so whichever half he is in will have a tuba player, and the other half will not.”

Although it does not seem likely that there will be band concerts for live audiences this year, the music department is considering alternatives. “I’m not sure how possible it would be to play live with an audience this year,” Shankle said. “Depending on how things go in the second semester, the district music departments might try to put something together.”

Although virtual learning has changed the music department’s operations during our online first semester, many students have hope for the future. “I’m really looking forward to being in a music class with my friends again and meeting all the people I didn’t have class with last year and just being back in an environment with people who also love music,” Marsh said. Senior Katie Wilson also looks forward to potentially returning to campus for in-person instruction: “I’m excited to get back together and have the ability to play as a class.”