Keeping the music alive as Vermont, New York schools reopen

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April Reeder’s classroom at Moriah Central School looked significantly different last fall compared to this year. Colored spots mark where students will sit, as usual. But, instead of a circle, the place markers are spaced out in rows.

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“So if they’re six feet apart they do not have to wear a mask. However, when that changes, they will,” Reeder explained. “In New York, in order to sing with classes, students will have to be twelve feet apart and masked.”

A challenging task, no doubt. But Reeder says she’s determined to nurture the love of music and keep those creative dreams from disappearing. “I think it’s our job as music educators to keep them alive as much as possible,” she said. “[Something] that says, hey just cause you’re not on ‘The Voice’ doesn’t mean you’re not a good musician.”

Music teachers in Vermont are also working around challenges, but keeping the faith.

In Winooski, Sara Poland, a music teacher at JFK Elementary, says she plans to bring her classes outside as much as possible. Still, she said, singing and playing instruments are not allowed.

“Being at J.F.K we have so many students,” she said. “For me, having individual music kits is just not possible. So whatever they have at their desk, they have their bodies that they’re going to use.”

Students won’t be moving much throughout the day. In fact, all band and chorus lessons will be virtual. Chorus teacher Mikayla Kelemen says she understands the need, but it’s still hard to imagine.

“I’m a little sad that we won’t be able to sing together, but it’s the safest thing,” Kelemen said.

But those digital lessons aren’t stifling close relationships. Band teacher Randy Argraves has become somewhat of a delivery driver.”I got a text the other day from a student that said “please help! I need reeds!” Argraves said with a laugh.

“He’s a saxophone player, and last year I drove the reeds all the way to his house!”

Going that extra mile to encourage the arts is what these teachers do. Winooski’s librarian, Matt Giles, is an expert in that area. At the end of last year he recorded story time to keep the love of reading alive for students.

“You know, I love hearing their reactions to stories,” Giles said. “When we were digital, it’s really weird when you don’t have that immediate feedback and reaction. But when you’re with a whole bunch of kids, it’s really fun! And I’ve missed that.”

Whether it’s music or storytelling, these teachers agree there’s always a way to keep creativity in your life.

“[Music} is everywhere! It’s in movies, it’s in Walmart, it’s driving in a car,” Reeder said. “It’s all over the place. Music will never leave you. It will always be around you.”

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