Dr. Nick Harker

Idaho Arts Charter School
Nampa, Idaho
Dr. Nick Harker, Orchestra Director

The last couple of months have been a roller coaster ride for my students and me. With our school starting the year completely remote and then morphing into a hybrid system, I’ve had to completely rethink my curriculum. I have had to come up with new answers to questions such as “how is this content best delivered” and “what content is really important?” While difficult, this situation has encouraged thinking that resulted in a positive content reform, quality music making, and solutions that will continue to be used for years to come.

Most orchestra, band, choir, and other ensemble directors will normally tell you that music making is probably the most critical and important part of their curriculum.  That’s why we are teaching music.  That’s why students take music classes- to make music.  However, we all too often hyper focus in on this one aspect and neglect, some more than others, other critical content.  Some content areas may include music theory, ear training, or music history. While they may be briefly taught in mini lessons to enhance music making, I would argue that the majority of school systems gloss over some of these topics.  As a result of this new hybrid model, our team has redesigned our entire curriculum that currently has an increased focus on theory, ear training, and history while maintaining music performance as much as possible in this environment.

All of my students, whether remote or in person, see me twice a week.  We rehearse together, learn together, and improve together.  Students that are opting to stay completely remote watch, and participate in our rehearsals.  While I can’t hear what the remote students are playing at all times, they can still hear how their part fits in with the rest of the ensemble. They still have the opportunity to interact with their peers and feel like they are part of the group, which they are. When students are not performing with the group, they are working on other foundational music lessons that will enhance their music making abilities over time. They continue to practice as they normally would on days that they are home.

Many students were easily discouraged when we found out that we are not allowed to perform any live performances this semester, and possibly the rest of the school year.  However, our music department has come together and created many new performance alternatives that will still provide a sense of accomplishment for the students and staff. These include professional level audio recordings and music videos.  These projects have opened the opportunity for cross curricular collaborations that would have been much less frequent.

I am very fortunate to have colleagues and students that support one another fully.  The solutions that I’ve come up with appear to be working for the time being, but I’m sure are far from perfect. The best we can do is continue to focus on how to provide students in our particular content areas with the best education possible. If we do that and collaborate with one another, this year can be an educationally prosperous one that will positively impact education in the years to come.

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