Faculty Leverage Technology in Distance Learning

Posted on April 17, 2020 by Zi Wang

Since March, the Academy has shifted to completely online instruction to do our part in the global effort to combat COVID-19 and to keep our students, families, teachers, and administrators safe. Our faculty responded to the sudden transition by transforming all of their teaching to a digital format, letting their creativity shine through this new media, despite new challenges. Today, we are showcasing four ways our Academy faculty has incorporated technology in their instructions to maintain their connection with their students and enhance the experience in new ways.


Acting Faculty Brings Showcase Rehearsals Online
“The Lion King Jr.” cast members have already accomplished stage reading, choreography practice, and blocking with Acting for Young People teaching staff–in just three weeks.

To transition rehearsals online, Showcase Director and Mason Theater Professor Mary Lechter and Senior Teaching Artist Ahmad Maaty are spearheading the effort to explore methods that will provide students with an enriching online theater experience. Acting teaching staff have been all hands on deck researching technology, testing new ideas, and creating supplemental resources to keep students engaged on and offline.

“We are so happy to provide connection and community for our students during these unusual times,” said Ms. Kaity Cookson Ormesher, showcase teaching artist. “Parents and students have been enthusiastic and flexible as we try new online options, and have repeatedly expressed how much they appreciate the consistency during this strange time. We are learning new methods for teaching alongside our students as they learn new methods for learning!”


Saxophone Instructor Ariel Williams Provides Performance Opportunity
Starting in March, many arts organizations have canceled competitions and concerts. As a result, students are missing the opportunity to showcase their talents and to gain musical experience. Ms. Ariel Williams added new teaching components for her students to receive extra instruction, such as listening assignments and juried video performance.

“The state band association, VBODA, canceled its solo and ensemble festival that most of my students participated in previously,” said Ms. Williams. “To provide my students with something to compensate for their loss, I am having all of my students send me videos of their best performance of their pieces. I give them comments just like they would have received at the solo and ensemble festival.”


Violin Teaching Artist Claire Allen Converts Studio Recital to YouTube Videos
Ms. Claire Allen was in the middle of preparing her studio to give a recital at the end of March, but had to create a new format in just two weeks as the state began social distancing measures. She presented her studio recital in a series of YouTube videos that were linked in a PDF program. Students dressed in formal concert attire, practiced recital etiquette, and recorded their best performance from their homes.

Ms. Allen said the planning and coordination was challenging but rewarding. The process began with seeking recordings from pianists and distributing the audio files among her students. Then, students were filmed performing along with pre-recorded accompaniments and sent their video links to Ms. Allen.

“It wasn’t without some technical glitches and stress along the way, as we were all trying to simultaneously come to terms with our new reality while maintaining our performance preparation routine,” said Ms. Allen. “In the end, it became a wonderful way for our students and their families to create a space in their homes for performance and to invite everyone in! Some of the families sent photos of themselves as an audience watching the performance videos and sent wonderful feedback to their fellow performers.”


Piano Teaching Artist Faith Zúñiga Mentors Students for NVMTA Sonata Festival
The annual Sonata Festival, hosted by Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association, is changing to an online performance competition this year. Teaching Artists Faith Zúñiga is preparing her students for their video submissions.

With music lessons offered via video calls, students and instructors are gaining experience for performing on camera in preparation for virtual music festivals. Coaching her students for the competition, Ms. Zúñiga encourages her students to elevate their musicianship by learning more challenging music.

“I most enjoy seeing my students becoming more confident and proud of their achievements,” said Ms. Zúñiga. “They learn that hard work pays off, and they can play that difficult piece well!”

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