ROCHELLE — The coronavirus has posed challenges for performing arts programs across the state: marching band rehearsals under the parking lot lights with sheet music clothespinned to music stands, virtual voice lessons for choir students, and creative rehearsal strategies for daily band and choir. Plus, all schools have postponed in-person performances, festivals and competitions for the year. In spite of these challenges, some Rochelle Township High School music students still seek to maximize their musical involvement.
The Illinois Music Educator Association has offered virtual masterclasses for all district qualifiers in lieu of in-person concerts for the 2020-21 school year. These masterclasses offer amazing musical value and mitigate Coronavirus concerns according to RTHS band director Shaun Schaefers and choral director Andrew Evangelista.
Representing RTHS are Jonathan Hansen and Jessica Nguyen. Hansen qualified for District 8 Choir (Tenor II) as a sophomore last year and a junior this year. Nguyen, a freshman, qualified for District 8 Band (Bb Clarinet).
Both spent several months preparing difficult music excerpts and have undoubtedly improved as musicians along the way.
Evangelista explained that both students recorded their auditions at home. Home recordings have become a major source of growth this year for the vocal program.
“We focus on a single performance concept every week,” Evangelista said. “Students practice that concept throughout the week and submit video recordings of their final products on that Thursday. I choose four of those submissions randomly, study them, and present them to the choral program. I describe three aspects in which each student excelled. Then, I describe one area in which each student can improve - and how.”
All choral students study Evangelista’s presentation and choose which of the areas of improvement to incorporate into their videos for the next week.
Evangelista said students must first overcome the nerves of solo performance.
“You could tell they were very, very nervous about recording themselves singing alone. They usually sing with their friends in choir,” he said. “Those that get past the nerves now spot their own ways to improve and even ask if they can remake their videos. The recordings, presentations, and concepts we cover help students learn about their gifts and continue their music education.”