Covid-19 has changed the music industry forever, but the music industry has not been crippled. If anything, musicians have shown the world their resilience. When concert venues shut down, live streaming gained popularity. When the doors shut to private lesson studios, teachers took their students online via Zoom and other platforms. But what will music education look like in the 2020-2021 school year? Is music education in jeopardy as school districts make decisions about the budget after the world’s largest recession?
The three most common scenarios for returning to the classroom are 1. Keep schools open at half capacity or socially distant, 2. Alternate groups of students in a one-week virtual school-one week physical school plan, or 3. Make schools completely virtual. For school choirs, any amount of singing may pose dangers for students. The American Choral Directors Association wrote in their Covid-19 Response Committee Report June 15, 2020, during face-to-face instruction with physical distancing, teachers should consider rehearsing outdoors and if they cannot rehearse outdoors, they should consider room ventilation, space, and cleaning and sanitizing processes, among a long list of other suggestions. Yet, even as they plan for the many possible scenarios, the CDC recorded “on March 17, 2020, a member of a Skagit County, Washington, choir informed Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) that several members of the 122-member choir had become ill." Their report says, "The act of singing, itself, might have contributed to transmission (of Covid-19) through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization.” Their report goes on to conclude that after a 2.5-hour rehearsal, 86.7% of the choir members subsequently became ill. In my mind, this leaves no safe way to sing without a vaccine or treatment.
In the case that we do make music class virtual, what can be done? Should music be cut and teachers laid off? The American Choral Directors Association has a long list of ideas ranging from using online meeting platforms like Zoom to exploring other musical ideas like music history, technique, music theory, and the discussion of music text. A workbook like the Learn Music Through Coloring Series where students can explore music at home by coloring may be one answer to this dilemma, as many students do not have access to instruments. Whatever the case may be, music most likely will be a low priority for schools trying to fit Math, Science, and English standards into a virtual school year.
It is always important for students to find a way to create music. Whether they remain at school or at home, there is no easy answer, but with the advent of technology, we find ourselves as Americans in a fortuitous position. Teachers can easily video themselves teaching with their phone and upload it to Youtube for their students. We have online meeting platforms and the internet. If we have learned nothing from our recent past, it is that music education will survive and prove to everyone it is resilient and strong.
Brinckmeyer, Lynn and De La Rosa, Lou. “Covid-19 Response Committee Report” American Choral Directors Association. June 15, 2020, https://acda.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ACDA-COVID-19-Committee-Report.pdf
Hamner, Lea and Dubbel, Polly. “High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 14, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm