This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Sarah Joncas.
For many of us, performing in a traditional concert hall just isn’t possible right now. Whether it’s a lockdown, stay-home order, or simply a request that we practice social distancing, worldwide pandemics are not conducive to the traditional concert experience. But music can be very comforting during difficult times. To continue sharing their music, many musicians have turned to social media, creating new performances specifically for a worldwide virtual audience.
If you’d like to perform, or get your students performing, in this new climate, take a look at some of these posts for inspiration. People are creating a lot of great performances online despite the constraints of cyberspace.
#SongsOfComfort with cellist Yo-Yo Ma
Famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma was one of the first performances I saw in response to the Covid-19 crisis. He has posted several videos to social media of him performing with the #SongsOfComfort hashtag, and many everyday and famous musicians have responded with their own. Feel free to browse the hashtag on Twitter, or take a look at the tweets embedded below for some ideas.
This was Yo-Yo Ma’s first tweet using the hashtag, back on March 13. He performed “Going Home”, an excerpt from Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” II. Largo.
In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort. The first of my #SongsOfComfort: Dvořák – “Going Home”
Stay safe. pic.twitter.com/S28w6OlXiZ— Yo-Yo Ma (@YoYo_Ma) March 13, 2020
Several of Yo-Yo Ma’s later #SongsOfComfort posts were direct reactions to events in the world. He dedicated this performance of the Sarabande movement from the third Bach Cello Suite to healthcare workers on March 16.
This is for the healthcare workers on the frontlines — the Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3. Your ability to balance human connection and scientific truth in service of us all gives me hope. #songsofcomfort pic.twitter.com/s9e35RW03N— Yo-Yo Ma (@YoYo_Ma) March 16, 2020
As the pandemic worsened in Italy, Yo-Yo Ma tweeted another timely contribution, this time performing an Italian piece with a bilingual caption.
Several other famous musicians also shared their music on the #SongsOfComfort hashtag. James Taylor posted a clip of one of his songs on Instagram with the hashtag.
Carole King posted with the hashtag on Twitter.
Everyday people are posting to the hashtag too! I have joined in on this one over on Twitter myself. Since all you need to do to join in is add a hashtag to your social media post, it’s pretty simple to participate. Most videos from everyday people seem to be taken on laptops or phones with their built-in microphones and cameras, so don’t let a lack of fancy technology get in your way. What to learn how to record using equipment you already have? Check out the podcast here.
If you or your students want to join in, just post a video of you performing with the hashtag #SongsOfComfort on your social media of choice. I have seen the hashtag used across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, so check it out on any of those platforms to see and hear a wide variety of performances.
Duets by yourself with the Acapella App
For teachers and (of legal age) students with an iOS device, the Acapella app opens up a world of possibility. Want to play a duet but don’t have anyone to play with because of social distancing? Acapella lets you record one part, then record the second part while listening to the first. Additionally, Acapella allows you to share your finished music, both within the app itself and by sharing out to your social media.
While Acapella is a great app for small-scale chamber music making, Katie discussed a few limits of the Acapella app in another blog post:
- 9 collaborators can participate in a project. It will work great for small ensembles, but it isn’t a solution for a full orchestra.
- Students must be at least 13, or possibly 16 in some regions, to use the app.
- The free version only lets you record a short snippet of music, not enough time for a full song.
Despite these limits, the Acapella app is a good way to dabble with multi-track recording. If nothing else, it’s a new music making tool to try and see if it works for you.
The #PlayOnThePorch challenge is simple: every day, a song is chosen, and people go outside and play it on their porch at 6pm. There is a public Facebook group where the song is announced each day, and people share videos of them performing the song at home.
Many of the songs chosen are accessible for beginning musicians, so this would be an easy one to get students involved in. Of course make sure they have permission before posting any videos of themselves, but even if they just play for their family it is a worthwhile endeavor and gives them a new song to work on each day. In the group, you can find performances from all different musicians of both the selected song of the day and other music.
The #MusicTeacherChallenge was started by Lauren Staniszewski (@LStaniszewski) on Twitter. Lauren wrote a blog post about the challenge. She asks music teachers to get back to making music and share it on social media with the hashtag, and invites others to join in to honor a music teacher in their life. There’s a wide variety of performances on the hashtag. Here’s just a sampling:
Sarah Nietupski tweeted a video of someone in a dinosaur costume playing Jurassic Park along to the movie.
Mrs. Rosati posted a multi-track recording of her performing “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer:
Fun Friday! Just a reminder to all of my students and fellow educators to “Keep Your Head Up” and stay positive during our time apart. #musicteacherchallenge
Title: Keep Your Head Up
Original Artist: Andy Grammer pic.twitter.com/5b0oSlkN4g— Mrs. Rosati (@MrsRosatiMusic) March 20, 2020
I posted a video of me playing Sweet Caroline for baseball’s Opening Day – the Red Sox retweeted me and I got over 12,000 views!
#OpeningDayAtHome and still repping the @RedSox – waiting for the day I can teach this song to fifth grade band again 😃#MusicTeacherChallenge pic.twitter.com/Xl8fUVHUDA— Ms Joncas Music (@MsJoncasMusic) March 26, 2020
To join the #MusicTeacherChallenge, post on your social media of choice using the hashtag. It’s amazing to see the wide variety of music that people are creating.
Social Media as as Inspiration for Student Assignments
While school restrictions or the age of your students might not allow you to ask your students to use social media in their assignments, you can still use these social music making ideas as inspiration for student tasks during virtual learning. Remember, most social media sites require students to be at least 13 to sign up, so it might not be legal for students to join them. Additionally, laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) may not allow for students to post to social media for school assignments.
Nonetheless, it’s still possible to take the best elements of these social media challenges and turn them into assignments and resources for students. Here are some ideas for assignments that could be done within Google Classroom, Seesaw, or another Learning Management System (LMS):
- Compare and contrast some video performances you select (be sure to pre-screen for school appropriate language!)
- Create their own video of them performing either a specific song or a song of their choice to be uploaded to the LMS
- Select a song that they think would make a good challenge and justify why it would be a good song (maybe then challenge your class to perform them!)
- Explain how music can help people cope with difficult times
- Research how one of the social media performance trends started
- Create a playlist of songs they think would work well for one of the challenges
Despite all that’s going on in the world, it’s encouraging to see that people are still finding ways to make music. While physical concerts aren’t possible right now, creativity and the power of social media has allowed for new ways to share music with others. Join in and share some music of your own!
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About the Writer
Sarah Joncas is a music teacher from Massachusetts, USA. She teaches kindergarten through fifth grade general music, fifth grade chorus, fifth grade band, and percussion ensemble. Before becoming a teacher, she worked with technology and educational software.
In 2014, she was named a TI:ME Technology in Music Education Leadership Fellow, which allowed her to attend a music education conference in Texas and explore cutting edge music teaching technology. She has earned degrees in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston University. You can connect with Sarah on Twitter or her blog Teaching Music Musings.
Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.