Crossing the distance in education; rising to the challenges, making it count, having fun

Roger Coda
School of Music Associate Director Laura Koepke with her students online.

School of Music Associate Director Laura Koepke (top, center) leading her scales class with members of the bassoon studio, flanked by (clockwise, beginning, top right): Lauren Henning (senior, Music Education and Music Performance), Eliza Shriver (freshman, Music Therapy), Stephen Beardsley (sophomore, Music Education and Music Performance), Marisa Esposito (adjunct faculty, bassoon) and Lisa Gewirtz (junior, Music Education).

‘Scaling’ to musical success

A scales class isn’t part of the curriculum in the School of Music, but the move to distance learning prompted School of Music Associate Professor Laura Koepke to add a couple of components to the studio curriculum, “so that we can stay connected, and to keep us all motivated and energized.”

The scales class meets every day, Monday to Friday, on Zoom. Times are varied so everyone can attend at least two sessions each week and play through a scale cycle together, with one person leading everyone through a cycle.

Ms. Koepke, the primary bassoon instructor, says the “workout” is regimented and takes about 30 minutes to complete. “So far, it has been great, and we are all benefitting, students and teachers alike.”

 

Kids of all ages on same online track

As a way to test out Zoom as an optional classroom meeting platform, Department of Visual Arts and New Media Associate Professor Peter Tucker invited his students in ARTS 240 3-D Form and Content class to join him in a Zoom meeting to check in with them and to see if they had questions and suggestions for the structure of the class for the rest of the semester.

faculty member works with students online
Peter Tucker joins his students in Drawasaurus, an online drawing game.

“Once we finished the business, we started playing Drawasaurus,” Mr. Tucker said. Drawasaurus is basically an online version of Pictionary for multiple players.

“We played for almost two hours while using Zoom in the background,” Tucker added, “just like Olive, my 11-year-old daughter, taught me.” He had seen his daughter using Zoom to see and talk to her friends while they played Drawasaurus.

“It was hilarious. I laughed hard, many of us did. I kept offering opportunities to stop playing, I didn't want them to feel obligated to play this silly game, but they just wanted to keep on playing.  I think that the connection and the distraction were welcome,” Tucker concluded.

 

Inside Distance Education’s silver lining

The transition to online learning hasn’t always been a smooth one for School of Music Assistant Professor of Piano Leonidas Lagrimas, and it’s also brought him far from his comfort zone as an educator. He’s undoubtedly not alone in looking forward to “the day when we can experience teaching and music-making in person.”

faculty member teaches piano class online
Dr. Leonidas Lagrimas with student Sarah Pearson, in an online music lesson.

But, at the same time, there are redeeming qualities, Dr. Lagrimas remarked.

Distance learning has allowed Lagrimas to witness firsthand qualities in his students that he might not have been aware of before, “and to appreciate things that I previously may have taken for granted – for example, my students have told me how much they value the experience of taking applied music lessons that much more, now that their entire academic lives have been moved to distance learning.”

And students are really committed to learning at Fredonia.

“Watching my students work from their homes, sometimes on reduced-size electronic keyboards that are obviously not the real pianos they can access in Mason, makes me realize how resilient and determined they are to get the most out of their learning,” Lagrimas said.

“Watching my students work from their homes, sometimes on reduced-size electronic keyboards that are obviously not the real pianos they can access in Mason, makes me realize how resilient and determined they are to get the most out of their learning,” Lagrimas said.

The online atmosphere is also somewhat relaxed, too.

“And it is funny and just a little bit ironic that some of my students are now much more open and communicative with me through online learning than they are when they come to my office for a lesson,” Lagrimas said. “Maybe there’s something to be said for the learning from the comfort of home and how it can be productive but also somehow more relaxed and inviting.”

 

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“Mila Rose,” a work for solo classical guitar written by SUNY Distinguished Professor James Piorkowski, is being edited and prepared for publication by Parisian publisher IMD (International Music Diffusion), which initiated an offer to publish the Piorkowski composition.