Music and the arts stay connected


Daily school life has been drastically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Online classes have affected each member of the KO community, presenting many challenges for the teachers and the students. However, teaching and taking part in visual and performing art classes have become especially difficult, and those teaching these courses have had to become both creative and flexible.

In art classes based on drawing, painting, and sculpture, a completely new approach to learning has been introduced. Usually, students are able to use materials from around the classroom. Due to the shift to online learning, students had to pick up materials from school before online school commenced. During classes, creative arts students first meet all together to discuss their work, problems they are having, and new ideas. After this initial meeting, students go off-camera to work on their projects before returning once again so their teacher can check in on their progress. 

In addition to changes in the creative arts department, KO’s wide array of musical ensembles are having to overcome many roadblocks as well. KO’s choral groups have been working on a “Pandemic Playlist” that will include a vast selection of songs voted on by the chorus. In addition, they are working on the Michael Jackson song “Heal the World,” arranged by Co-director of the Concert Choir and Director of Outlook David Baker. “I wanted to choose a hopeful song that would send a message of unity to the KO community,” Director of the Concert Choir Steve Mitchell said.

The school’s orchestra and band ensembles have also been experimenting with virtual rehearsals, though synchronization has proven to be difficult. “Orchestra and band ensembles now receive skill-based practice assignments which they record and submit,” Chair of the creative arts department Todd Millen said.

One challenge with online music rehearsals is that directors of these ensembles have found it difficult to give feedback to musicians whose sound quality is fuzzy. “I just give feedback on what I can hear,” Mr. Millen said. “For a trombone player, I can tell how they articulate and how well they are playing with the beat, but maybe I can’t really give feedback on their tone.”

One of the hardest parts about the change to online learning is that performances are now much harder to plan for, since teachers and students do not yet know if they will be returning in May. According to Mr. Millen, students have been doing well adapting to the change. However, this switch has been a learning curve. “It’s all very new to me, and it’s definitely pushing me out of my comfort zone,” he said.

In addition, because it is up in the air whether school will commence in May, both the orchestra and the band are unsure if their annual graduation performance will occur; however, the music ensembles still remain hopeful. The orchestra, for example, is now beginning the process of rehearsing pieces such as “Hail, Kingswood-Oxford” and “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Despite the fact that our community is faced with this new and overwhelming challenge, the arts department still remains strong and hopeful. In these trying times, we must emphasize our creative expression, and thanks to the hard work of the arts department, KO continues to foster a creative environment.