Music students ‘shining’ despite pandemic difficulties: Winnipeg teacher

Manitoba’s high school students have been able to find a version of normalcy in the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one type of school programming that remains difficult to do is music classes and school bands.

According to a visual and performing arts teacher at a Winnipeg high school, band programs have had to get creative to keep kids engaged even when they can’t play instruments together.

“We’re like all teachers right now, learning as we go,” Sisler High School’s Alexis Silver told 680 CJOB.

“I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years and I feel like a first-year teacher again.

“There have been some pretty incredible silver linings, even though there have been obviously some challenges.”

Read more: Coronavirus — A look inside a Winnipeg elementary school amid the COVID-19 pandemic

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Among those challenges: the inability to play wind instruments indoors during the pandemic, and having to resort to unorthodox instruments during in-class sessions.

“We’re not able to use wind instruments indoors right now, so we’re using buckets as drums, and ukuleles and these really cool little plastic tubes called boomwhackers that are pitched.

“My in-person classes are mainly guided listening — we’re listening to music together and trying to pull out what you hear — either theoretically within the music or just emotionally.”

On top of that, Silver said music teachers have had access to a wealth of learning material thanks to local music organizations and associations, including the Manitoba Band Association, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra (WJO) and local university music programs.

Read more: Manitoba students, teachers getting creative this Valentine’s Day

The WJO, for example, has been making free online performances available to music students, as well as putting together pages of teaching resources for educators trying to keep kids interested during the pandemic.

“It’s inspiring. The music community is inspiring,” said Silver.

“Making music and offering support — I hope that everyone is able to make ends meet. People who don’t have much right now and are still giving has been incredibly inspiring.

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“Everybody wants to just be playing our instruments in the room all together. But the students have been incredible through this… They’re shining.”

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