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    • Students rehearse for Concert Choir over Zoom.

    • Talia Chang ’22 poses for a photo wearing a stage mask for Boxes.

Students Reflect on Arts Classes in Hybrid

Zach Williamson ’22 Lead Arts Editor, Matthew Breier ’22 Assistant Arts Editor
Throughout the pandemic, students enrolled in Hopkins arts courses have been navigating a complicated landscape.
Some of their courses look completely different in the hybrid model, while others more closely resemble previous years’ pedagogy.

In many aspects of life at Hopkins, the hybrid model has hindered a cohesive sense of community. For Concert Choir, a course that normally involves students participating in group back-massage circles and close-knit rehearsals, the hybrid model presents some unique difficulties. Led by Director of Choral Music Erika Schroth, Concert Choir has been forced to shift location and rehearsal type, moving from the basement of Thompson to the tents on the athletic fields. As the weather starts to change, the singers are beginning to notice. Kaila Spearman ’21 remarked that a challenge of choir now was “ being cold outside!” The biggest issue, according to Grey cohort member Nala Diarassouba ’24, is that Concert Choir students are facing a lack of connection between students: “I’m somewhat familiar with people in the Maroon cohort but on a basic level. With being in the Grey cohort, I’m bound to become better friends with people in the same group. However, Ms. Schroth is working hard to combat this with Zoom meetups and, now, weekend rehearsals.”

While it may be difficult, singers in Concert Choir are remaining positive throughout this unprecedented experience, and Schroth is working to integrate both Zoom and in-person students. “We could not ask for a better choir director,” President of Concert Choir Drew Williams ’21 remarked. “Ms. Schroth has one of the hardest jobs on campus right now and no one could do it better than she is. Just being the person that she is, you can tell she is putting absolutely everything into making this an enjoyable year for all of us. New traditions have started like bringing blankets to choir, Singer of the Week, jumping around first thing to warm up (and actually warm up), and even choir therapy sessions. She adapts methods as she tests what works and what doesn’t work with online and in-person singers.” Orly Baum ’22 reinforced Schroth’s commitment to the group: “Ms. Schroth has been an absolute lifesaver. She goes into each day with such a positive attitude and mindset and always hypes us up, which is super inspiring and makes the class so so enjoyable.”

As the choral program is working to foster community and keep the group dynamic in the hybrid model, the visual arts at Hopkins face their own set of challenges. Last spring, the Fine Arts curriculum underwent a shift, with Fine Art II being split into two different courses and Fine Art III changing name and content. Students in Advanced Studio Art, the new iteration of Fine Art III, are working intrepidly with Arts faculty members Peter Ziou and Derek Byron to keep making art. There are two sections of Advanced Studio Art running in the 2020-2021 school year. The first, taught by Byron, had a lucky split, as Caroline Asnes ’21 reflected: “My section is actually entirely Maroon week, so we’ve just been taking Grey weeks to work on projects. This means no Zoom meetings! Overall, the pandemic restricts the amount of time that we have for our projects, but the content is about the same.”

Both Ziou’s and Byron’s students are working on independent projects and pieces to be presented in the Keator Gallery later this year. Jessica Chapman ’22 described her current project: “I have been sketching, I have two acrylic paintings half done at my house, and at school, I have a few smaller acrylic paintings that will fit like a puzzle into a big painting made up of everyone in my classes squares.” Asnes outlined her current plans for a piece: “I’m working on a three-piece study on graffiti. I’m going to start by covering the walls of the gallery (hopefully) with graffiti art (spray painted on plywood since I don’t want to get expelled!) and creating an experiential piece. I’m then going to superimpose graffiti on the human form by creating a sort of body jewelry that will turn a body into a piece of art. Finally, I’ll do a photography series on these two pieces.”

Advanced Studio Art students are uniquely challenged this fall, as unexpected news of their course’s curriculum change hit last year. “When my Fine Art II crew and I learned about the course change, we were pretty upset,” Asnes recalled, “We had begun our journey on the Fine Art track with the understanding that we would enter Fine Art III in our senior year. The change bothered us less because we didn’t want a different experience, and more because we knew that the change would probably split our group up. Plus, the fact that we were kept entirely out of the loop on the whole thing and only learned about the change when we got our course choice booklets with the rest of the grade was pretty frustrating.” Chapman echoed these sentiments, remembering that she “really hated that they made such a large change and didn’t consult any of the people that would be affected by it. Being in Fine Art I last year, we were impacted the most. My entire class went on that track with the intention of going onto [Fine Art] II and then [Fine Art] III our senior year, when we would make the class banner. Luckily for me, I had taken Studio Art II my second term of freshman year, but there were many kids in my class that hadn’t taken two arts that year and the change made it so they could no longer go into a high-level 2D art class.”

As in the visual arts, Jazz Band is using on-campus weeks for rehearsal and off-campus weeks for other projects and individual practice. This year’s Jazz Band rehearsals look quite different than they have in the past. Students practice in one of the large tents on the soccer fields. At the first in-person rehearsal, the wind whipped through the tent wreaking havoc, sending Jazz Band Director Chris Devona and all the musicians scrambling after their music and cell phones. Jacob Ragaza ’22, a percussionist in Jazz Band described the new rehearsal structure: “Rehearsals are split up, and the Grey cohort has fewer people than the Maroon cohort, but it’s not really that different. We basically do the same thing that we would have in the normal school year with respect to pieces and working on problem areas. On our online weeks, Mr. Devona has these projects to occupy us like music theory and compositional exercises. He keeps us busy. The wi-fi connection is quite difficult to play with. The bandwidth can’t handle it.”

The drama program is also working to keep students engaged. Talia Chang ’22, who is taking Acting I, reflected, “Every week for every class, just like any other class, you have homework assignments. So when we’re at home, we film our scenes and present them in class on Zoom or we’ll act it out in person. It’s allowed me to work on my play acting rather than my stage acting.” Chang is also a cast member in director Mike Calderone’s upcoming production of Boxes. She described her gratitude for the experience: “Of course I would prefer to be with everyone in the other cohort, but the show that we’re doing right now is really cool. Everyone is fully masked. There are no lines. It’s just so reflective and intimate and about our experiences. I wouldn’t change that.”
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