RETSOF – Before the COVID-19 pandemic took over everyone’s lives, high school music students at York Central School were working on performing the song,”Shallow,” from the Academy Award-winning movie, ”A Star is Born.”
Some students had already been given parts that they would sing, while others were still waiting for assignments. But as they were working on the project, school was shut down and distance learning was put in place.
“I was trying to figure out a way to try and keep up with assignments and to get kids to practice and to make sure that they are still doing what they are supposed to be doing,” said music teacher Katie Goodman.
What she came up with, was for the students to take part in a virtual chorus.
“I know technology wise, it is pretty complicated,” said Goodman.
About 25 of her 40 students wanted to participate in the project so she had them record individual parts of the song. Then, the students would send her those clips. At home she began the process of editing all of the video and sound together.
“I can edit things pretty well, but my computer takes a while to edit because when you have 25 kids singing at the same time you computer wants to die,” said Goodman.
Goodman provided students with feedback along the way.
“I have the kids send me videos and then I give them comments back, so I will be at like 45 seconds this is what you need to fix and this is how you do it. I don’t think you could really do it over the phone because there are a lot of physical things that could really affect your vocal quality,” said Goodman.
She calls herself one of the lucky ones because she already had all of the software and equipment needed to edit the project. But having the students record their parts of the song at home, was not as easy because she said there had to be no background noise and for some students it meant having to do their part multiple times.
“Just getting them to know how to record was difficult for some and then sometimes I had to have kids record again because of the audio, like if the dog starts barking,” said Goodman.
For other students it was not the audio but just trying getting over the nervousness of singing at home.
“It was a little weird because my whole family was home and I don’t like to sing in front of them,” said senior Tori Bianchi. “But it was really cool to see the final product.”
Junior Addison Houseman, 16, said it was also difficult trying to learn at home because none of her classmates were around for support.
“It is definitely weird because when you are in class you can listen to all of the other people around you,” she said, “but when you just making your video you have to make sure that you are getting all of your notes right.”
“It was definitely new because you have to get the timing right and you have to look at the camera and everything,” she said.
For Katelyn Curry getting the notes correct, she says took multiple attempts.
“I think I must have sang that song like 20 times because I wanted it to be right and I wanted to feel comfortable with it,” Curry.
For Goodman it was not only very time consuming but also an emotional project for her to work on.
“It made me sad when I rendered the video and I saw them all together,” she said. “I cried a little bit because of these kids, I was on maternity leave and I got back in January and I have three months with them and then we closed. It is a really special group of kids.”
Students said being away from school has also been hard on them but said working on virtual chorus together helped.
“It is hard to be away from school because we do miss our friends and singing together and being together, but I think this virtual choir really helped with seeing everyone,” said Curry.
The students could be seeing more of each other, virtually. The school is closed until at least May 1 and Goodman said she is hoping to do a virtual chorus every couple of weeks. She already has some songs in mind for the next project.
“We have a pretty wide range, some of my students are working on a piece from ‘Rocketman.’ It is 12 minutes long so we are working on it but we will figure it out,” said Goodman.
WHERE TO WATCH: To view the York students’ YouTube video, click here.