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How COVID-19 is Shaping the Future of Music Education

 by Steph Castor

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The future for music education right now is uncertain, but there is still a glimmer of hope, especially for younger students.

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Music Education: From Offline to Online

Many subjects can be easily translated from offline into the online world, but music is one field where that task is much more difficult. For instance, many students rely on their school's instruments, mentorship programs, and ensemble training sessions. The closure of these schools has made continuing music education much more difficult for these students.

Many students are receiving calendar notifications of canceled music events, and their disappointment and frustration are growing.


What Students Are Missing From Music Education

Meanwhile, most of us are sitting at home behind a computer screen, wondering how to make the best of the current predicament that we find ourselves in. Many students and staff of music are now asking themselves, "what are the implications of this pandemic on my musical future?"

Missing music events is just a drop in the bucket - how about the things that students miss out on from music classes, like making emotional, physical, and psychological connections while in the physical classroom? Without the pandemic there would be spring concerts, musicals, lessons, rehearsals, field trips, and more all arranged by music teachers throughout the country.

There are also many students who rely on music classes to get through each school day. Without the positive reinforcement they experience from music classes, band, or choir practice, they could end up falling through the cracks.


The Importance of Continuing Music Education

Music education is yet another area in public education where the coronavirus is magnifying underlying inequities. Students who depend on the aforementioned items are missing out big time, especially if they don't have an alternative solution at home. Distance learning, while it's a potential solution, isn't accessible for every student.

Even when the schools do open back up, not every school will have music programs available in the near or foreseeable future.

Many more students will experience depression in their lives if they don't get the opportunity to create music in school. Music is a big part of life for many students.


No Substitute for the Real Thing?

Unfortunately, there's no real replacement for being together with others and making music. Music has the power to change lives, and the absence of it in schools is going to make music education harder.

The latest and greatest apps, music education lessons online and recording platforms will help, but they won't change the fact that there's no exact substitute for being in a room together with others.

However, these online tools should prove to be useful and engaging. And furthermore, kids are especially good at utilizing and adapting to new technology. Teachers won't be able to create the same exact experience that can take place in a real classroom, but they can still have digital orchestras, recording projects, and live lessons on social media. And because of their experience in the classroom, they'll know that the key to making all of these new solutions work is to maintain a strong relationship with their students.


Creating Personal Connections Is Key

Making connections with students and creating a strong sense of musical community will be the key to the success of music education going forward. We must not feel overwhelmed by all of the newnesses, but instead, try and keep things simple, while keeping in mind the importance of personal connections. And there are many different ways to make these connections, including video chatting, text messaging, or the old fashioned phone call.

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Teachers Must Facilitate New Connections

For many students, the best part of their week is their virtual private music lessons. And the daily highlight of many students is a simple chat with their peers and teachers from music class. This is thanks to the music teachers that are facilitating these connections among their students. Now more and more kids are actually uttering the words "I miss school."

In fact, special video messages can count a lot for music students. A simple but heartfelt and positive message from an instructor showing that they care can mean the world to music students. During this period of uncertainty, these video messages can serve as simple guideposts on a student's journey through music education.


Remember What Music Education is All About

It's important to remind students about what band class is really about. In short, it's about learning how to create wondrous music, expressing your emotions, connecting with others, and having fun. With a good teacher, none of those things should change in the transition to online musical learning.


Life Goes On

Students should also keep in mind that life will go on, schools will eventually reopen up again. And in the meantime, teachers should understand that they are crucial to the future of music education. Music teachers have many important roles. They must be community builders. They have to create avenues of expression for their students. And they will need to continually stay in touch at those key moments when students need them the most. For example, when an event gets canceled, students should be reminded of how strong they are that they even managed to reach that point, to begin with.

Also, when it comes to music education, the mechanics of learning (blend, intonation, balance) are even less important. More focus and emphasis should be placed on the emotional side of things (the connectedness, joy, and hope).



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Written by
Steph Castor

Steph Castor

Writer, musician, artist, & adventurer