Distance learning is a challenge for any classroom, but it is uniquely difficult for musicians who are used to playing in harmony together. Throughout the months of March and April, Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School students have been responsible for keeping up with their coursework, and those enrolled in band class are no exception. Montgomery Catholic band directors Alex and Kristine Johnson had to come up with solutions to keep their students engaged.
“We can’t put students together in any ensembles,” said Alex. “To keep up with their instruments, they are working on scales and etudes which they record and send to us for feedback.”
The students receive assignments from the Johnsons, and they must practice daily in order to keep up. Using their laptops and cell phones, the students then record themselves playing and email these videos to their teachers.
“Individuals are highly accountable on a daily basis for material,” Alex added. “This method gives us an opportunity to give highly detailed feedback to each individual.”
And while they are not able to play in groups, the students themselves have come up with creative ways to create socially responsible ensembles. Senior Theo Hornsby, a trumpet player, recorded a video where he performed all 8 parts of a trumpet octet, Infinite Ascent by Erik Morales.
“He’s very motivated to stay in top shape,” said Alex. “And while it’s challenging to play along with a recording that is six and a half minutes long, he was able to do it 8 times.”
Montgomery Catholic’s middle and high school band programs had a record number of students who were accepted into the All-District Bands and All-State Bands. 12 students from the middle school and 13 students from the high school were chosen to perform in the ABA District VI Honor Bands, and of those, 3 middle school students and 11 high school students were accepted into the All-State Honor Bands. Additionally, for the second year in a row, the 7th grade band, 8th grade band, and high school band all achieved overall “Superior” ratings at the annual Music Performance Assessment, which is the highest rating a band can achieve. Ensembles are judged on specific areas, such as tone, intonation, technique, rhythm, balance, and musicianship, and are given an overall score based on their subcategory scores.