Online music

The LSHS band and choir reflect on how distance learning has affected them.

The LSHS pep band performs at a 2020 basketball game before the schools close.

Photo Courtesy of Holly Balan

The LSHS pep band performs at a 2020 basketball game before the school’s close.

From the rousing tunes that the pep band plays at football and basketball games, to the beautiful harmonies that the choir sings at their concerts, music has always been an integral part of LSHS. However, due to the unique nature of both electives, they were hit harder by distance learning than other classes.

Both band and choir are classes that rely on collaboration between large groups of people, so the restrictions on gathering has been a major upset to the way they usually function. 

Band Director Neil Proff says, “The shutdown was super hard for all of us. The band was pretty much crippled. We lost festivals, trips, graduation, and our concerts.” But, the band managed, still meeting often online and staying positive. One of the largest aspects of band, besides the music, is the family that every student joins when they become a band student. 

Junior band-student Holly Balan says, “It was tough at first- going from hour practices every day, concerts and trips to online took a lot of adjustment. But we handled it together! Thankfully we were able to have our annual Band Lock-in before the full shutdown, which lifted everyone’s spirits a bit. Proff quickly organized zoom meetings that the entire band class could get on so we could see each other and keep in touch through the rest of last year.”

The restrictions affected choir too, cancelling plans and trips. “When the pandemic hit and put everywhere in lockdown, it really just put choir on hold. There were so many things that we were going to do, like we were going to travel to San Francisco, that didn’t happen. And there are a bunch of songs that we spent a long time learning that we never got a chance to perform.” Says Junior Ghett Hardwick.

Due to distance learning, band and choir have both had to use new software to record and produce their music. They’re currently recording the music they’d otherwise be performing. Band is doing regular music theory tests through google forms, simulating tests they’d otherwise perform in the classroom. 

Balan says, “The biggest part of band this year has been the platform where we all record our music. It is a really nice setup because it allows us to record ourselves playing our parts, and once everyone has theirs in we can line up everybody’s recordings so that we can hear what the bands sound like together”

Sophomore choir student Lily Elmer agrees. “It was difficult at first, getting the hang of it but it’s honestly a skill most people in choir and the band should learn because it’s basically what music production is.” She says. 

It has been a challenge for the band to adapt, yet Proff and his students still have found ways to be successful in online learning. 

Compared to other music programs, the LSHS band has been largely successful with online learning. “We teach a ton of music theory…. think math for music. That stuff is a lot easier to do on a computer and also allows the kids to hear the chord progressions of tunes by ears and trains them to be able to write out music that they hear.” Says Proff. 

Some students really enjoy the recording process and producing their music. So, despite the distance and struggles of online learning, Balan says, “It is so nice to hear us all and remember the power we can bring with music- even if we’re dancing around in our rooms instead of in the football stands.”

However, despite the moderate success band has had with online learning, it’s still been tough. “We are a family. We do stuff together. We travel, we perform, we hang, we are here after school and before school and pretty much every other time in between. We are the rhythmic beating heart of this place. All of it POOF!! It has been super hard for all of us to deal with.” Says Proff. It also takes much time and effort to produce a finished recording, so playing music hasn’t been very easy. 

Choir has been able to rehearse through Google Meets, and is recording music just as the band has. However, Hardwick says, “we really aren’t producing that much music. The Jazz choir so far has only sent out like two songs so far, we do plan on sending out more.”

That isn’t to be said that the choir isn’t able to produce music, in fact they’ve sang the national anthem for the virtual Veterans Day Assembly, made holiday cards to send out to families, and are currently working on music for the Edmonds Festival. 

Nevertheless, according to Hardwick, it’s been “much more difficult to learn music online. We just can’t work as much on some of the things and we have also had to really slow down the entire process.”

Amidst the pandemic, there has been good. Both hand and choir students overwhelmingly agree that the software they’ve been using to record their music should be used in the future, with Elmer saying, “We could maybe even make an album, how cool would that be?”

Despite the struggles of online learning, LSHS music programs have continued to thrive. But one thing can be said, everyone is eager to get back into the classroom and perform with their classmates.