Picture this: Choir without the singing and orchestra without the instruments.
Seems counterproductive, but thanks to COVID, that’s exactly what music classes will look like in one classroom this year.
“We're not going to have instruments because if a person sings or plays an instrument...Well, there are ways to make it work, but it's pretty darn complicated and a little risky,” said Missoula Hellgate Middle School orchestra teacher Heather Flesch.
As of right now, Hellgate plans to assign each of its four music teachers to one of its four buildings.
She won’t have any instruments, but Flesch says this idea of adapting and being flexible isn’t new.
“As a music educator, or any educator, we're constantly evolving,” said Flesch. “For us to be effective, we have to be finding new ways and better ways to do things.”
She is, however, nervous about her students' health, and she’s dreading not getting to see their facial expressions underneath their masks. Not having a concert at the end of the semester is still a touchy subject.
But this is the hand education has been dealt, and according to Flesch.
“It's an adventure teaching everyday anyway,” she said.
So what does a music class look like without the instruments? For Hellgate, it’ll run more as a general music course, covering everything from Mozart to Led Zeppelin.
“There are things we can study. Jazz and blues and different cultures, I mean, all the different types of music. I always focus on the strings, but we can get into big band, we can get into hip hop. My goal is to help them find music as a way to relax, to find their inner peace because there's going to be a lot of chaos.”
Flesch knows this school year will be unconventional, to say the least, but with anywhere from 30 to 60 students in each of her classes in a normal year, it makes it hard to do anything as she normally would, and when you don’t have control over a situation, maybe you just have to laugh about it.
“I'm thinking of it as a sabbatical,” said Flesch, chuckling. “I’m going to a different planet, teaching a different language with an accent in English.”
Even with all of the changes, Flesch is eager to reconnect with her students in some capacity. She already has three and half months of online lesson plans ready in the event she has to pivot to remote learning.
She says whether families choose to send their kids to school or keep them home, she’s here for her students.