Music Students Struggle to Adapt to Distanced Learning

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The music program at Pacific has seen multiple changes during COVID-19, hitting music majors and remote learners the hardest. The administration has done their best to keep music alive, but music without the people is lonely. 

“Nobody is really happy about the way we have to conduct music this semester, but all the students have given every indication that they fully understand [the safety measures],” said Professor Michael Burch-Pesses, the director of bands at Pacific.

Burch-Pesses is not conducting a band this semester, but rather having each instrumentalist send in a separate recording of their part to create a virtual concert for the students. This has been hard on the whole band program because he has had to cut jazz band, since not enough people signed up, and making music without people is lonely, said Burch-Pesses. He added that the whole point of band is to make music together.

A large part of the music program are the music majors. Music Education major and senior, Charlie Kerns, has had their fair share of struggles this semester.

“Especially for instrument methods classes, like how to teach various instruments has been really hard because we can’t handle the instruments and play the instruments,” said Kerns. “It is unreasonable for me to expect people to teach kids how to play instruments if they have never played them or dealt with the instrument themselves.”

One of the most important parts of being able to teach someone how to play an instrument, is knowing how to play it yourself. Kerns believes that many people will be behind and inexperienced in these upcoming years because playing an instrument is not something you can do virtually. They are also concerned for job opportunities and internships because music majors are not in high demand currently and any opportunities for tutoring and in person internships have been delayed until the pandemic has calmed down.

While Pacific is doing what they can to help music students on campus, from providing recording kits, to sanitizing practice rooms, one group of people that does not get those benefits are remote learners. One of the biggest struggles of remote learning, besides not having a physical practice space, is maintaining motivation to keep practicing while stuck at home.

“It has been difficult to continue to stay motivated because the choir is not meeting in person,” said Shaye Nishimura, a general music major and freshman from Hawaii. “Being part of an all-girls choir for about seven years, I was super excited to be in a co-ed choir,” said Nishimura.

This is a sentiment that many freshmen can relate to. Due to COVID-19, many freshman and transfer students have been denied the excitement of joining a new ensemble and finding their voice in college. Everyone is hoping that universities can find new ways to implement COVID-19 safety measures that will allow them to meet in person sometime soon, even if only in small groups. — Marissa Liao

Photo: Student Allison Wills plays the saxophone during individual practice; an activity that has become common for music majors during COVID-19 (Marissa Liao)


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