With the changes of the past few months, fine arts classes have had to improvise. Those who teach ceramics and choir, and oversee the production of this year’s musical, have made changes in the face of recent challenge.
Kevin Brady, the Upper School ceramics teacher, has adapted his course so his students can still create even without the ceramics studio, pottery wheels or clay at their disposal. At the beginning of a new school year, Brady and his students spent their typical Zoom class discussing their first projects.
“We are currently using paper to design shoes at home,” Brady said.
Senior Alex Stalcup said the domestic-made shoe project has been a huge success, with the types of shoes varying from Tevas to sandals to cowboy boots. The students used various materials they had access to at home in order to mold their desired shape.
Brady said the most challenging aspect of teaching via Zoom is keeping everyone on task and focused. He can’t wait to be back in person in hopes of using proper ceramics equipment and keeping everyone on topic.
“I’m most looking forward to setting up the studio for the students and getting started with using clay,” Brady said.
Although directing choir via Zoom may seem difficult, Abi Poe, director of choral activities, has used distance learning to focus on theory lessons, choral programming and sight-singing, or singing notes without preparation.
“The students haven’t gotten to concentrate on these skills much in choir before, so it is certainly a benefit that we have some time to really build a solid foundation that will only enhance their musicianship for the future,” Poe said.
During class, the students are exploring choral music of various genres to decide on a winner for
the winter program they hope to release as an album later this year. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, each member of the Upper School choir will have to record her own singing part at home prior to combining the recordings to create the final “performance” for the first semester.
“Something I miss about being at Hockaday is witnessing students wandering into the choir room early for class or lingering afterward to gather around the piano and sing together just for their own enjoyment and release,” Poe said.
Once distance learning ends, Poe said she is most looking forward to seeing students and faculty, hearing chatter outside of her door and being able to have organic conversations with anyone she passes in the hallway.
Emily Gray, Upper School drama teacher and musical director, has become creative with the production of the Upper School musical, “Songs for a New World.” Rehearsals have begun earlier than in previous years, in the hopes the finished product will be released for viewing in December.
“We wanted to start working on the musical straight away because it gives people some positivity and something to look forward to among everything going on,” Gray said.
Gray predicted students would not be able to perform live in front of an audience and she thought this musical’s plot and music would work well with technology and a pre-recorded show. Although the show is abstract and lacks a plot, the songs are tied together by a common theme: “the moment of decision.”
“The social upheaval, the protests, the racial injustices, and the polarization of the country made us want to choose a musical that is relevant to all of it,” Gray said. “It seemed that if we wanted to put our stamp on the year and really discuss 2020, this musical would be the best way to do it.”
Students auditioned via Zoom. Gray said while directing the musical has been difficult, the students were well-prepared for the auditions which made them easier than in years past.
“Each student had a 10-minute segment to audition, instead of a large group of students auditioning at once, and then faculty could give that student their full attention,” Gray said.
Upon returning to campus, Gray said she is most excited about seeing her students and her co-workers.
“I am most looking forward to being able to see people all the way from their heads to their toes,” Gray said, “not just shoulders up.”