Olympia School District Music Band, Symphony and Choir Play On

ggood news ! The Olympia School District (OSD) music program is alive and well, and there is still time to get involved. Students in high school, middle school and the latter years of elementary school can still make music with their peers, even with the advent of pandemic restrictions. “It is true that being in a group or an orchestra is not what it used to be,” notes Joe Dyvig, OSD musical coordinator. “However, I am really committed to taking a positive attitude, finding the bright side and making the most of it.”

Some school districts across the country have phased out orchestras and brass bands, but the OSD believes music is central to students’ educational experience. Rather than abandon the programs, OSD embraced them. “We thought it was important to put in the extra energy to be innovative and creative,” says Keith Holder, who teaches the orchestra at Centennial, Madison, Pioneer and McKenny Elementary Schools and at Washington Middle School. And that’s what they do.

Keith expects people to ask, “How do you play music or sing in the age of COVID?” ” It’s a good question. “All or nothing doesn’t work,” says Keith, who finds ways to make music on Zoom. “We wanted to keep it as normal as possible for the children. For example, he will play a whole class play, where everyone is muted, and then the students can play with him. Afterwards, he will ask for volunteers to play one at a time. “In some ways it’s not much different from the class,” he adds.

Keith Holder has his hands full teaching the students in the group from his room at school. Photo credit: Keith Holder

On Fridays, the elementary school group members do something that was not done before the distance learning. Each section of several schools – flutes, clarinets, trumpets and trombones – meets a separate teacher. This more focused and focused time helps beginning students master techniques, handle their instruments and other aspects of the game. No one waits while the other sections are mentored.

For now, attendance is good. Keith says families are still figuring out connectivity and fixing bandwidth issues, but that’s to be expected. He suggests that parents talk to their children in class and ask, “Can you play something for me? He knows that music can be fun for a lifetime, but often needs encouragement, as there are challenges and frustrations along the way. Keith began playing the trumpet at Roosevelt Elementary School in Olympia. He is quick to say that he still finds some difficult days, but attributes longtime friends to his involvement in music.

Maria Aurelio, a 10th grade student at the OHS, practices her violin in her bedroom, where she also gives her lessons at a distance. Photo courtesy of Maria Aurelio

Older students will dive deeper into music this year with guided listening and exploring theory and technique. “Distance learning forces students to be independent learners,” says Joe, but it can be a positive. Some students will feel less pressure because there will no longer be the performance as before. Students will learn various applications such as Soundtrap, an online collaborative music and podcast recording studio with many available instruments, high quality loops and more. Flipgrid is another way to create short videos to communicate.

Maria Aurelio is a 10th grade student at Olympia High School (OHS) in the Hearing Symphony. She learned the piano at a young age with the help of her grandmother and then added the violin in 6th grade. The guitar is also one of his instruments. “Being in the comfort of my own home is nice,” she says of distance learning, but “it’s harder to concentrate at home”. She runs four to six miles in the morning (she was on the track team) and plays with the chamber orchestra. Her new hobby is cooking for fun and stress relief in her limited free time. His recent adventure with macaroons was a success. Maria has a small group of friends who are walking together or going for a cup of coffee. She loves the ability of music to bring friends together and bond with anyone.

Cole Bennett’s bedroom serves threefold as a classroom, a musical rehearsal space and a bedroom. Photo courtesy of Cole Bennett

Cole Bennett is another 10th grade student at OHS who plays the violin. “It’s always fun, but it’s not the same,” he admits, but gets to see his musician friends. The advent of school filled his schedule, including driver education. Cole also has a limited group of friends that he sees face to face, which helps normalize life and relieve stress. He has at least one friend in each of his classes who support each other to stay on track. Cole hopes to run cross country and be on the track team in the spring.

The Olympia School District looks forward to helping you and your students get their instruments and start playing. There are levels for beginner, intermediate and more advanced players. Families in financial need can be assisted in acquiring instruments. Consider inviting more music into your lives and connect with the Olympia School District Music Department.

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