When school closures extended well beyond spring break with no end in sight, the participants of Harmony Project Sooke wondered what to do. Who knew that only two months later the project would be preparing to present its first ever virtual year-end concert.
Harmony Project Sooke is a non-profit society that provides a strings program (violin, viola and cello) for students in grades two and up, and a drumline program (marching band-style drumming) for students in grades six and up.
The big question was how could the students maintain their progress while isolated at home? HPS classes take place outside of school hours but they meet at Journey Middle School, which was shut up tight.
Fortunately, the HPS project provides each student with an instrument to use as their own and to take home for practice, so most of the students had their instruments at home. Strings students had actual instruments, while Drumline members had practice “drum pads”.
Before spring break ended, the teachers dove into planning online lessons and classes. With the support of students, parents, and board members, they gradually rolled out a schedule for individual lessons and small group classes.
It was a big experiment for everyone, but after two months of experience, the results have been gratifying.
Lead strings teacher Maria Wang noted that especially the younger students are really blossoming with more one-on-one instruction. They also enjoy the group classes where they can socialize and catch up with each other.
“The more advanced students are learning how to express musical concepts verbally. Through presenting research projects, for example on the topic of Baroque dance music, they’re learning how to present to their peers, who in turn listen and give feedback,” Wang said.
Drumline teachers Chris Rivollier and Alex Mold are also excited by the process.
“The students get so much more individual attention and in fact are making incredible progress in technique. They seem more willing to make mistakes, and we have the time to correct them. The downside is that we miss performing as a group.”
Now as summer approaches, the students and teachers are preparing for their first ever virtual year-end concert. Students will perform individually and in duets, trios and quartets. Family, friends and the public are invited to attend.
The performances will also serve as their “exam” in that the students will be evaluated on a number of components, including musicianship and technique. The teacher jurors will also assess the students’ participation, personality, and progress during the term.
The online concert takes place via Zoom on June 23 at 4 p.m. Parents and other supporters of HPS will receive personal invitations with a password to the Zoom “meeting.”
Members of the wider public are also invited to attend. To receive an invitation with instructions and a password, please email your request to Lorna Bjorklund at firstname.lastname@example.org
An added treat will be performances by the strings teachers.
The concert will run 1.5 hours and is free to attend. The organizers, of course, would welcome any support to “help keep Harmony Project Sooke healthy” during and after this pandemic.
Donations can be made by e-transfer to email@example.com (The funds are deposited directly, so no security question is required.) Alternatively, you can donate by Paypal or credit card at the HPS website www.harmonyprojectsooke.ca (go to the “Help Us” tab).