The Student News Site of State University of New York at Brockport

The Stylus

The Stylus

The Stylus

Music and theatre departments adapt to new teaching style


By Sarah Killip / Staff Writer

COVID-19 has affected all aspects of college education. Classes in departments such as theatre and music have made significant changes in terms of how instruction and performance take place.  

When New York state entered Phase of reopening, theatres were not included. In addition, SUNY Brockport has made clear guidelines stating there should be no large gatheringsPGibson Ralph, Brockport’s theatre and music department chair, explains how theatre classes are still functioning during these uncertain times. 

Acting classes are currently being conducted real time online,” Ralph said. “This allows students to act without a face covering, but also to interact. One of the acting situations being used is scenes in a car. The characters interact by looking at each other through the car’s rear-view mirror. Theatre improv classes have been held outside or on the stage where a good 6-foot distance can be maintained.  Since much of improv includes non-verbal communication, this works out very well; and you never know what interesting add-ons might occur – a boat on the canal, several deer or a dog walker.” 

Scott Horsington has been a professor at Brockport since 2011. He is the director of both the college-community orchestra and the Brockport concert band. 

Every school is different – since Brockport doesn’t offer a major in music, our ensembles are considered extra-curricular,” Horsington said. We were notified shortly before the semester started that the ensembles had to meet remotely, or else we could not offer them. Luckily, we’ve been utilizing software called SmartMusic – it’s a web application that allows members of the ensembles to practice the music on their own and receive automatic feedback. We’re using it to record everyone’s parts, which we will put together into digital performances. 

The lobby of the Tower Fine Arts Center has a view of the Erie Canal out the back doors and windows. (Photo credit: Paul Cifonelli)

Not being able to practice in person not only changes the experience, but the incentive for some to participate as well. 

Some musicians learn best in a face-to-face rehearsal, hearing all the parts and seeing the music on a regular basis,” Horsington said. It can be challenging to force yourself to practice when the time isn’t built-in. 

Breanna Rosen, a Brockport junior, plays clarinet in both band and orchestra 

“Each person is in charge of recording their individual music pieces and sending them back to our band director,” Rosen said. “It’s challenging to play this way because you don’t have a director helping you learn the rhythms or helping you keep tempo. 

While there are some plusses, Rosen doesn’t find the online experience as fulfilling as playing in person.  

I think there is something so special about an entire ensemble playing together, playing by yourself isn’t nearly as exciting,” Rosen said. “What’s nice about how band is operating now is we are able to perfect a piece before submitting it. When we have concerts you only get one try to get it right and that’s it. But I really miss our band and orchestra director Scott Horsington. He always made rehearsal so fun and it never felt like he was our professor, more like a friend, he really cares about all of his students. 

Despite the challenges, the department is finding a way to look at the positives. 

“Rarely do we get a chance to try something new,” Horsington said. “Opportunity emerges in crisis, and whatever we learn about how best to teach or perform during these times gets added to our toolkits. I often think of how easy it will seem to teach and rehearse when things are back to normal – and maybe that will make us all appreciate it more. I think this whole experience has shown us that nothing can replace learning face-to-faceI’m not sure what the outcome of this will be – no one is – but I do think it’s an opportunity to really grow our understanding of what education means. 

Students are still working hard towards putting together a production. Ensembles will be recording their performances for viewing online, like The Voices of Freedom Summer which will be streaming October 6 through November 3.  

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Stylus

Your donation will support the student journalists of State University of New York at Brockport. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Stylus

Comments (0)

All The Stylus Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *