FALL 2020 COVID CHANGES
We all understand that music classes, performances, rehearsals, and other music-making works best if we can all be together in person. However, current circumstances are requiring that we conduct online classes for Fall 2020. This way, we can accommodate all students together, at the same time, and in the same way.
I know many of you are not going to agree with our decision to have a fully online semester, and I'm happy to talk to anyone about it, and explain how we felt this was the best choice for now. Email [email protected] with questions, concerns, or comments.
For those of you who have taken FAYM classes over the years, this page will try to explain some of the major differences that you will experience this semester, and changes that we have had to make in order to have online classes work the best way for the students.
TUITION AND REGISTRATION FEES
Because classes are online, the semester has been shortened, and some class lengths are shorter than usual in order to be sensitive to the differing attention spans of students of different ages. Therefore tuition and registration fees have changed accordingly. The Tuition and Fees page (top menu) explains everything, but here is a summary:
-One class for one semester is only $66, or $22 per MONTH over THREE months: September, October, and November.
-Because we don't have to pay rent on a building, the family registration fee has been reduced to $15 for the semester.
NO WINTER CONCERT
As I write this document, we do not have permission to gather in any building for a rehearsal, class, or concert. That includes our regular concert venues of high school auditoriums, since many schools have chosen to be fully online for the fall. UMW has cancelled every single performance for the fall semester, including the UMW Philharmonic. The Kennedy Center is closed through the end of this year, and so is the Richmond Symphony. Pretty much every major ensemble across the country has put large performances on hold. So, our goals for the large ensemble classes will obviously change. We can still play full ensemble pieces for fun, but there will not be a large winter concert. Many of our basic skills classes do not have a goal of a major performance anyway, even though they traditionally would show us what they've learned through the Class Showcase. Obviously, if circumstances change at any time during the fall months, we will reconsider whether or not a concert is a possibility.
VBODA AND VCDA DISTRICTS, REGIONALS, AND ALL-STATE
At this time, I know VMEA, VCDA, and VBODA are all having major discussions about what to do about district, regional, and all-state events. Unfortunately, state band/orchestra/chorus was cancelled back in April, and I know the organizations are going to do everything in their power to try to hold events this year. However, there are many, many obstacles, a few being that each event hosts several hundred students, the fact that both singing and playing wind instruments is deemed "unsafe" right now, and most importantly, if the public school buildings are closed and having online instruction, there won't be any schools available to host any events, anyway.
I am not in any way involved in decision making, and the boards of each organization are keeping things pretty quiet right now in order to discourage rumors, but common sense tells us that a few possibilities include moving the dates of auditions and events to later in the year, or having online auditions. However, even those choices pose serious problems and difficulties, so there's no guarantee that the events will happen this year.
Remember that if there is an event, the VMEA handbook states that students are "required to be enrolled in a school band, orchestra, or chorus program in order to audition and participate in the event." Obviously, with public and private schools also going online, and in some cases cutting arts programs, we are not the only ones wrestling with these issues. I know that if there will be any events, I will do everything I can to help students be eligible to audition.
The students most affected by this issue are level 3 and 4 band and strings students, and Sound Harmony chorus students. When will VMEA, VBODA, and VCDA come to a decision and make an announcement? Nobody knows, and it may be after the start of the semester. I will, of course, pass along any information as soon as it comes available.
UPDATE: A notice came out on Aug. 3 that the Senior Regional and Junior Regional Orchestra events have both been cancelled. No auditions will take place for JRO. However, there WILL be virtual auditions for SRO in September. This is so students can be recognized for their achievements, and to have a list of students who are eligible for all-state auditions in February, assuming that will still happen. Keep practicing SRO students!
All-VA Jazz auditions will take place (virtually) in October, as usual. However, selected students will not perform at conference in November, since the conference has gone virtual. Students selected for All-VA Jazz will perform as part of the ALL-VA Band/Orchestra/Choir event in April, assuming that the event happens.
No other information is available for any other VMEA, VBODA, or VCDA event, including District Band and District Chorus auditions or events.
SMARTMUSIC SIGNUP, FEES, AND CLASS REQUIREMENT
SmartMusic changed their policies and now requires the school (FAYM) to purchase all student subscriptions, and then the students buy those subscriptions from the school (FAYM). In order to keep the matter of subscribing as non-complicated as possible, we are going to offer the subscriptions for $10 per semester, instead of $20 for the year. It's too difficult to keep track of students who subscribe in August, and then those who subscribe in January. Additionally, if you subscribe in one semester but don't continue with the class the next semester, you only will have purchased a half year subscription.
Do not try to signup for SmartMusic on your own through their website. You need to wait for an invitation and code from your class teacher, which will take you through the steps necessary to get an account and link up to your FAYM class assignments and music.
Some classes in which SmartMusic was encouraged but not actually required in the past will now have a SmartMusic REQUIREMENT. All band, strings, conducting, and chorus classes will REQUIRE a SmartMusic account. Students from the same family that take different classes can share an account, because one account can access as many FAYM classes as necessary. However, if siblings are in the same class together at the same time, some families may choose to get separate accounts for each child because it will be easier to track each child's assignments. If so, each child's account is then $10 for the semester.
This class REQUIREMENT is necessary because it is the only easy and logical way to get students to play with an ensemble, and make recordings of their assignments for the teacher to assess. Online ZOOM classes require us to stay muted most of the time, which prevents us from playing and rehearsing all at the same time, but SmartMusic gives us an opportunity to play with other live musicians, even if it is prerecorded.
click on this link for a very short video about how SmartMusic works. Read more about SmartMusic in the band, strings, and chorus class sections below.
We regret that we won't be able to offer INTRO STRINGS, INTRO BAND, or WINDSTARS2 (WindStars3 is still on the schedule, however). After much discussion among the band and strings teachers and assistants, it was agreed that an online introductory class for new students would not be a positive experience. Those who have taken one of the classes before understand how hands-on intensive the first 3-4 weeks are. The teachers spend most of the class time helping students assemble instruments, showing them where to put their hands and fingers, demonstrating and helping them position their lips and mouth, teaching correct breathing, tuning string instruments, making adjustments to reeds, tuners, ligatures, valves, and other things, and sometimes even making repairs. Not being able to see beginning students in person for those first few classes will be undoubtedly frustrating for both the teacher and the student, and would not be encouraging the student to want to play that instrument. Our Intro classes only worked online back in March and April because we had 7 classes in person first, and we were able to establish some good habits of instrument assembly and care and use before we went online.
Some alternate suggestions that will help students prepare for instrumental music in the future are General Music, Piano, Guitar, or Recorder. Skills of playing and note reading learned in those classes can carry over to band and string instruments, and can help give students a little bit of a head start before pursuing band or strings. We look forward to welcoming new Intro Band and Intro Strings students in the future, when we can do so in a way that will be fun and encouraging in a positive way!
We also regret that we will not be able to offer MEN'S CHORUS or CONCERT CHOIR. Since those two choral groups traditionally encouraged students to attend another choral group anyway, we are just going to stick with the three main choral groups. However, Sound Harmony (for students 14 and up), will be split into intermediate and advanced break out sections in order to work on skills of note reading, theory, rhythm, and sightsinging according to the different levels of students in the class.
BAND AND STRINGS CLASSES FORMAT
Instead of running the online band and strings classes the way we did back in March, which obviously was done the way it was because nobody had time to plan or test or think of new methods or procedures, we've come up with a new class format. Our goals for band and strings are to keep students playing, to have fun, to interact with their classmates, and to continue to learn and progress on their instrument. Imagine not playing your instrument for 9-12 months or so–you would lose so much of your skill and regress a level or maybe even two! We want to keep playing, even if our goal is NOT to have a big concert. We can still play lots of fun music and really enjoy doing it.
Therefore, the goals of the band and strings classes have changed from performance based goals (getting ready for a concert) to very strong individual musical development of every student. In other words, every student is going to get individual attention every week in the form of free private lessons in addition to their regular class. We're hoping to take advantage of this unique situation to help students in ways that were not possible with live classes, because of limitations of time and resources. There is tremendous potential for students to have immense musical growth when all of our time and energy can be focused on individual progress instead of splitting our time and energy between class skills and ensemble rehearsal. We can certainly make the best of what we thought would be an unfortunate situation!!
Each level 1, 2, and 3 (including WindStars3) class will have a short weekly online class together, where we will discuss and explain new concepts of rhythm, notation, key signatures, scales, technique, and other things. Then, in order to help the students in the best way possible, every student will get individual attention, every week. Each student will have a scheduled 10-15 minute private lesson with one of the FAYM teachers or assistants. At this lesson, the students can play any of the class assignments and get help with tone production, hand and finger position, fingerings for notes, reading issues (key signatures, rhythm, new notes), or any other concept from our weekly class assignment. The private lesson will be scheduled to your preferences, but will be on the same day/time each week. Yes, these private lessons are included in the class tuition and do not have an extra fee! If you are already taking private lessons with another teacher, that's OK - you can still take our free lessons because we are going to exclusively teach the weekly class assignment, which is different from what your regular private teacher assigns.
In order to best help instrumental students with their weekly assignments and practice, SmartMusic will be REQUIRED for all band and strings level 1, 2, and 3 (and WindStars3) students. Back in March, SmartMusic made accounts free for anyone who did not already have an account. Amazingly, every single band and strings student signed up for a SmartMusic account (except for 2 students), and I saw some amazing results! Students can practice anything from our assignment list on SmartMusic and get feedback on tempo, notes, rhythm, and other practice helps. With 99% of the spring semester students using SmartMusic, we were able to accomplish so much more, and make great progress that would have been much more difficult to do without the program. See more about SmartMusic above.
Band 3/Strings 3: The level 3 classes will use different books this semester, which will better utilize online resources and SmartMusic. Strings 3 will be using String Basics Book 3, and Band 3 will be using Traditions of Excellence Book 3.
BAND 4/STRINGS 4: Lastly, I want to offer a special option to the level 4 band and strings students. Because your class is 100% audition prep and concert rehearsal, and because you are already supposed to have a private teacher to be in level 4, the class format outlined above doesn't really work well for you. At this time, nobody knows if VBODA auditions and events will happen (read VBODA EVENTS above), and it's pretty likely that there won't be a major concert. (However, weather permitting, we may be able to schedule a few small "backyard recitals" for those who are interested!) My proposal is for you to register for the level 4 class, but your class will be tuition free. We will meet about every 2-3 weeks or so to chat, share music with each other, get updates on auditions and VBODA events, and generally just keep in touch with each other, socially and musically. If everyone is interested, we can hold small online recitals or masterclasses for each other. But it's really important to me that you all register for a level 4 class, because it's the only way for me to keep in touch with you during the semester, even if we don't have a traditional kind of class. Please sign up for Band 4 or Strings 4! (You all should also seriously consider taking Conducting, Music History, or Music Theory!)
CHORUS CLASSES FORMAT
Chorus classes are going to use Google Classroom and Flipgrid to facilitate learning and streamline the process for families. There will be a Google Classroom interactive slide for chorus that will have clickable links for assignments. We will also have Flipgrid set up so students can share video or audio projects easily. The chorus classes will continue to work on singing - learning songs, score reading, rhythm, warmups, solfege, etc. and also do some fun music projects.
GUITAR CLASSES FORMAT
Since there will not be a performance, students will make videos of their assignments and projects that they have worked on throughout the semester and send it to the teacher for assessing. This will be a fun class and a great way to introduce the beginning student to the guitar. The goal of the class is to be able to read basic exercises in first position and learn basic open chords, learn how to switch between open chords, and finally learning basic strumming patterns.
ELEMENTARY MUSIC INSTRUMENTS
Students signing up for Elementary Music will receive a small set of classroom instruments and equipment to take home for use during the semester. All of these instruments and materials must be returned at the end of November when the semester is over.
FAYM has a small supply of instruments to rent out to students for use in a FAYM class. The cost is $15 per month. Available instruments are usually the larger or harder to find instruments. Additionally, FAYM's supply of keyboards may also be rented out, with priority given first to piano class students who have no other instrument at home, and second to music theory students. Other available instruments MAY include upright basses, tuba, euphonium, trombone, bass clarinet, bari sax, and tenor sax.
Because some classes have been cut from the fall schedule, and because some students may not work well with the proposed large ensemble class format or any other online class format, we have added a few new classes that work very well online, and hope that these new classes may be an alternative choice for you, to encourage you to keep music in your life in some way during these times.
GENERAL MUSIC was created based on a few requests from families who liked the idea of Elementary Music, but their children were older. Elementary Music will still be offered with the same age requirements of 5-7 yrs old (approximately grades K-1), and now General Music will be a course with a similar idea and purpose, but aimed towards slightly older students aged 7-9 (approximately grades 2-4). The General Music class will very closely resemble a typical school non-instrumental music class.
The CONDUCTING Class will be a fun class for high-school aged students (previous instrumental experience and ability to read music is required). We will learn basic conducting patterns (why is the conductor waving his arms like that?), learn hand/arm independence (cueing while conducting), and practice conducting real band and orchestra ensembles. The ability to read music is required because we will be studying real band and orchestral scores, will learn how to read ALL of those notes at once, and decide which instrument needs our attention at any given time. A real baton will be provided to each student to use during the semester.
MUSIC HISTORY will be a journey through time to see how music got started, and then over the centuries how it evolved and changed and morphed into the sounds we hear today. What does the oldest piece of music discovered sound like? How does music from 1400 sound different from music from 1700 or 1900? Was there really an instrument called a "Serpent"? This class is recommended for high school aged students because of the more advanced vocabulary, terminology and concepts of history that will be referenced. We will watch videos and listen to audio clips of music from 3000 B.C. to the present. We will also look at the history of music notation, and the history of musical instruments, how they were invented, and how they changed and improved over time.
DISTRIBUTION DAY - All students must come pick up their required materials between
10am and 1pm on Aug. 26 or Aug. 27. Many classes are distributing books,
music, instruments, equipment, and markerboards to be taken home for
use during the semester. Check with your teacher to see what needs to be
picked up for your specific class.