“Choir is such a collaborative artform,” explains Carling FitzSimmons, Merit’s Director of Choirs. “It’s all about being in the same space with people. With the pandemic, that was going to be impossible.” So, when everything shut down, Ms. FitzSimmons, along with all other faculty across Merit, quickly adapted the curriculum to suit the changing circumstances.
Merit School of Music’s Perfect Cadence Conservatory Voice Ensemble singing as one during the pandemic when classes transitioned from in-person to online.
“I realized we were going to have to completely revamp and restructure the kind of learning we were doing,” reflects Ms. FitzSimmons. Instead of a performance-based curriculum, Ms. FitzSimmons created units focused on different skills that fostered musicianship and could be taught successfully online, such as sight reading, ear training, arranging, songwriting, and conducting.
The result was pretty amazing. Students were inspired to challenge themselves and step outside of their comfort zones. Student Gwen—who has since earned an impressive role as Young Composer in Residence at Hearing in Color—discovered her passion for composition through this experience. “When we first started the projects, I was kind of intimidated. But Ms. Fitz encouraged us and supported us throughout. Now, I really appreciate having the opportunity to arrange and record my own songs. How amazing to watch something I put together come to life!”
“It’s therapeutic. I’m going to use these tools to my advantage to be better as a person, better as an artist…to just be a better me.”
Kristian, voice student
These newfound skills also became a source of comfort for students during a difficult time. “The major thing that’s helped me during these times has been writing down what I feel and expressing it through music,” says Kristian. “It’s therapeutic. I’m going to use these tools to my advantage to be better as a person, better as an artist…to just be a better me.”
Now that programming has returned to Merit’s Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, students and teachers alike have been able to apply the lessons from remote learning going forward. Choir students have built new leadership skills, are taking the lead on conducting warm-ups, and workshopping their original compositions in person with their peers. Most importantly, they’ve discovered they are gifted not only as singers and as individuals, but that they’re stronger when they share their gifts with each other.