Musical Masterminds at The Village High School
Nobody needs another reminder about how everything is off right now. From campus life to extracurriculars, the underlying pandemic bleeds into our daily lives.
Amidst chaos, musicians have responded phenomenally. Musical groups are utilizing the internet to reach fans. Some are playing shows through live streamed concerts. Recommendations and new albums are flooding in. Similarly, The Village High School student musicians have kept music alive within this tragedy.
In the face of uncertainty and panic, music is balm for soothing anxiety and protecting community spirit. Oftentimes, it is the answer to coping with intense loneliness.
“As an only child, music has impacted me a lot because I don’t really have anybody to talk to during the day,” said sophomore Anjai Gupta, a choir student. “And the interesting thing for me is that I don’t really have a favorite. I can listen to any type of genre.”
A phenomenal musical initiative during COVID-19 at the Village School is the Musical Masterminds club. A group of student-musicians have been exploring their love for various instruments through innovative collaboration.
“We have been working on a Disney piece where we have our club members record their individual parts that we share on a Google Drive,” said junior Ella Xu, a founding member of VHS Musical Masterminds club. “We also have a conductor video because when we get together we normally have a conductor. They splice the clips together and make a harmonious sound.”
Aside from student-led collaborations, music education provided by The Village School itself has taken a drastic turn. Virtual band, choir, and orchestra classes are more difficult to conduct and courses are moving slower than usual. Along with innovations, numerous challenges are surfacing with music education.
“Choir is an interesting thing to do online,” said Anjai. “When you have people in the classroom and singing online, there’s a lot of lag and it’s so much harder to teach notes. By this time, we would’ve already figured out or memorized at least three to four full songs but with blended learning, we’ve only finished about one. It just takes more time virtually.”
Another obstacle arises when musicians are no longer able to assemble in groups.
“Normally, we get together in big orchestra groups, and that helps [us] make harmonious sounds,” said Ella. “But because now we can’t even meet face-to-face with just two people, we have to problem-solve with videos.”
While some have used this time collaborating with instruments, others have filled empty hours at home by learning an instrument. Music is something that requires loads of individual practice time to nourish skill sets. The virus has built in this time to our schedules. Sophomore Divya Khatri has explored a new instrument during the pandemic, independently mastering her favorite songs on the Kalimba without guidance or prior knowledge with the instrument.
“I looked back at my list from before COVID with things that I wanted in the distant future for my birthday and I decided to get a Kalimba,” said Divya. “It was only 25 bucks so it wasn’t that expensive and I’ve never really taught myself an instrument. Usually when I play instruments like violin and piano, I go through all of the classical stuff, but when I’m playing Kalimba I get to play the songs I want. I just look up tutorials and I learn by completing them rather than learning through scales or the initial stages.”
Musical collaboration has increased, and listening is at an all time high. An April 2020 CNN Business magazine states that Spotify’s listening time around activities such as cooking, chores, family time and relaxing at home doubled during the pandemic. Spotify also reported an increase in searches for "chill" and "instrumental" music and an increase in popularity of wellness and meditation podcasts.
With nobody to constantly speak with, music can even make one feel like they are not alone.
“I use Spotify a lot more because there is more time for independent work,” said Divya. “When working independently, you need some kind of background noise or you just need to hear another voice, even if it’s through a song. That sounds super lonely, but if you just sat in silence with a lower amount of interaction that we have nowadays, it would drive you insane.”
Listening hours have also skyrocketed due to the lax environments students learn in at home.
“During physical school I can’t just put on headphones because that’s rude,” said Anjai. “But in virtual learning, I can play music during class without being disruptive or rude. At home, especially now, it’s very easy to have music going 24/7.”
In a state of helplessness and lack of control, music has the potential to change the face of mental health during the pandemic. If listening to a distant voice and stepping to a beat gives anyone the slightest glimmer of strength to get through the day, then it is a sound worth believing in.
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