No Easy Answers

Mike Lawson • Perspective • October 28, 2020

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I don’t have any. This year sucks. It’s knocked the wind out of a lot of musicians, students, teachers, parents, and all things related. There is no national standard to follow, it’s a mess state by state times 50.

This plague is impacting lots of kids today and the motivations they may even have for being at school, or not, as the case may be. I’m lurking in a lot of social media music educator groups to try to take the pulse nationwide of what is going on for teaching music programs, and frankly, it’s ugly. There is no standard to teach these standards outside of a structured classroom, every teacher is experiencing something different it seems, from the extreme of being fired and no programs being taught, to kids performing in what some are calling less-than-favorable safety circumstances.

When this hit last March, it was easy to see the coming train wreck this fall for school in general, but in particular with an airborne virus. From the outside looking in, this is what I’m seeing. You are working harder than ever to support these students, in distance, blended, and even in person classes. Some of you have very little personal protection and have to go to work anyway and hope for the best, that you don’t get sick or carry the COVID-19 virus home to a loved one. Some of you have gotten sick. Some of you have had school open and shut down within weeks. You’re dealing with angry parents, administrations that think you’re suddenly an audio engineer and video producer. It’s often driven by the political leanings of the administration with magical, wishful thinking that children can’t get this, or don’t spread it, or that it will just go away on its own. Again, it’s a mess. A big, hot, horrible mess.

Music is a “contact sport.” It requires participation with others in most cases. And that is what makes this so difficult. On the plus side, if there is one, in this issue you will read about a very workable potential solution for music over the Internet (I know, you’re so sick of these online solutions). JackTrip Foundation, JamKazam, RMS, and others I have written about offer ways for music programs to continue, if your student has the hardware and internet access.

But we get back to the age-old issue of the haves and have nots. So, if you’re blessed to be in a “haves” school where the hardware and wired internet connection are a given, it’s a great solution. If you are not and have a large Title I population, where socio-economic uncertainties and related factors make this a challenge, it won’t solve one aspect of the bigger problem which is this: it really isn’t that safe to perform in large groups indoors right now, without all kinds of accommodations to at least lower the risk, but not eliminate them.

We are there with you, striving to be optimistic and gathering the best content we can to help you get through this, and recognize what a struggle this is for you and your students. I am eager to hear from you, on or off the record, about what is and is not working, trouble you’re having, or how you are making it work against all odds in 2020.


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