“Preparing to teach like we never have, and getting the good word out”
St. Francis Preparatory School Music Department
St. Francis Preparatory School
Fresh Meadows, New York
St. Francis Prep’s Music department is incredibly proud of the efforts we undertook during the pandemic to ensure our students continued to receive high quality, rigorous training. We spent the summer of 2020 doing research, attending webinars, and interviewing and collaborating with colleagues in the field. This enabled us to keep our feeder schools informed that Music was alive and well at our school, and the we had dedicated an incredible amount of time and professionalism to ensure we delivered the best possible program.
Our objective was to maintain the highest quality level of instruction, while keeping our students engaged and enthused. We also wanted to ensure that our feeder schools knew what we were doing, and that our school was still an exceptionally viable option to send their student-musicians to. This necessitated teaching things differently, and teaching different things. For example, teaching beginner string players tuning first. The success of this is apparent in the video link of our 2021 Christmas Concert. Another example, given we could not sing, was teaching our Chamber Choir composition and exposing them to Music of multiple ethnicities and heritages, such as Norwegian Music.
As always, our students were the focus of our efforts. The more we develop ourselves as educators and stewards of our program, the more our student-musicians (current and future) benefit. Simply put, regardless of the circumstances, we must do our best to teach our students the great vocation of Music.
This was, and still is, an ongoing effort, as of course, we did not know (and perhaps still don’t) when we will be 100% removed from the impact of the pandemic. It is our hope to be back to an as close to “normal” year this upcoming year.
Overview of Planning and Execution
Every teacher had the responsibility to explore what was going on in their unique area (strings, band, choral, etc.), but the primary individuals through the process have been Dr. Robert Corbino, and Mr. Robert Johnston.
Tools and Resources
Webinars, Zoom meetings, individual research, letters. emails, individual conversations.
Marketing and Promotion
Given we were not able to have a traditional Open House, we stayed in touch with our major feeders via email and sent letters detailing our efforts to the schools, parishes, pastors, and friends on our mailing list. We also continued to be recognized by the National Association for Music Merchants as a Support Music Merit Award Winner. This gave us consistent material with which to promote our program.
Thankfully, we incurred only minimal expenditures, as the webinars we attended were free of charge, and the collaborations we undertook were due to the kindness of our colleagues. Various web platforms to enable ensemble performances were only a nominal cost.
The biggest issue was to re-learn how to teach Music, given the lack of in-person instruction (our school was a mix of hybrid and fully remote). Though we pride ourselves on teaching the child through Music, Social Emotional Learning became absolutely paramount in our efforts.
It was. We were able to still attract students to our school for Music via more use of our YouTube channel, and word of mouth. We also maintained the relationships we had developed in the “before years,” such as with the Paul Effman Music Service and Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music. Our enrollment numbers, though less school-wide, still reflect the same percentage of students taking Music.
We were able to still be a major attraction for potential students to our school, and maintain the structure and articulation of our program. This year just ending was the first that we had in-person concerts that were attended by capacity audiences. This bore out the fact that our students never lost the love of performing and making Music, and their families and our broader community supported this.
Advice for others?
Collaborate and build relationships within the broader Music Education community. Get to know the college educators in your area, and get involved in professional organizations like American String Teacher Association.