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Adapting the Arts for Remote Learning
Adapting the Arts for Remote Learning
Posted on 09/10/2020
Teaching the arts during a pandemic may look different, but the fundamentals are the same.Featured Photos: 1. and 3. Students sing outdoors during T.C. Roberson High's onboarding for the Fall 2020-21 school year. 2. Choral Director Aleisa Baker stands by her piano in her classroom.

By: Benjamin Rickert, BCS Communications

Teaching the arts remotely during a pandemic may look different, but the fundamentals of a quality music education are the same, said T.C. Roberson High’s Ms. Aleisa Baker. And with nearly a quarter century as a choral director, she would know.

“My job moving forward is to create everything we did here, but through the computer,” Baker said. “During remote learning, we need to give them that food for their soul that they got every day in this room.”

Students are still developing music literacy skills even though they are temporarily unable to gather in person or hold concerts in Roberson’s performing arts spaces. During their daily online sessions, Baker leads discussions and vocal exercises. She also plans to teach students to conduct, read music, and understand the anatomy of the human voice.

Ms. Aleisa Baker in her choral room at T.C. Roberson High.A group video call can’t replace an in-person rehearsal, but Baker said there are some advantages. For example, she can selectively listen to students one at a time and provide individualized coaching. The motivation is also more focused on the art itself.

“Now we’re creating music in order to create music, not to have an end of the year concert,” she said.

Baker’s class also provides needed normalcy and community for students during the pandemic. During the two-week ‘Plan B - Beyond’ on-boarding for all Buncombe County high schools in August, a reduced number of choral students were able to gather from a distance. They even rehearsed together outdoors. Baker’s audition-based Chamber Choir will also start rehearsing outdoors after school in mid-September. These gatherings help students reconnect and remember that their friends and supportive teachers aren’t so far away. But it is the daily contact and conversation through remote learning that has kept their community close.

Roberson chorus students rehearse outdoors during their school's onboarding.“Waking up in the morning knowing that I get to spend time with my choir family, even if it’s just through a screen, makes my whole day,” said Roberson senior Ciara Burnette.

Classmate Harrison Best agreed and compared the choral ensemble to a family. Senior Will Cowan said that remote chorus had been a key way for him to keep his relationships connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That normalcy is essential to the social and emotional parts of their lives,” Ms. Baker said. “Participation in activities like choir or band is central to their high school identities. It’s important that I understand that, and help maintain that connection.”

Like the other fine art educators at Roberson High and around Buncombe County, Baker is committed to making the most of the circumstances and providing the best experience possible for her students.

“We are going to do everything within possibility and reason to help the kids play and perform, so they aren’t losing anything,” she added. “Students will still come out of our programs just as rich- it’s just a different kind of riches.”

Last year, the T.C. Roberson High Chamber Choir was featured during Christmas at Biltmore's traditional Tree Raising ceremony.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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