Arts & Life, Features, Fine & Performing Arts

How virtual learning changes the experiences of College of the Arts students

When President Jane Close Conoley first made the announcement for students to not return back to school for a few weeks, all that second-year music performance major Wesley Gordon felt was excitement. 

Ready to head home to Bakersfield, Gordon had no idea how quickly his last class of the day would turn into his last in-person class at Long Beach State for an unimaginable amount of time. 

“We all thought we were coming back,” Gordon said.

Gordon and his classmates began to realize how different school would  look and how difficult it would turn out to be. But Gordon was not the only student that came to this realization. 

Natalie Lovan, a third-year dance major, questioned how anything would work for her classes. 

“Performing arts, specifically and especially dance, being in-person is such a big part of it,” Lovan said. “You gain so much from being in person while you’re with instructors and learning from your peers.” 

Lovan wondered how any dancers could succeed without adequate space, proper flooring and stable internet connection. 

Despite her concerns, Lovan came to terms with how quickly things were changing and tried to keep up with her training.  She took online classes through studios, from her professors, worked out and disciplined herself to stay fit and healthy for when she could dance full time again. 

“Our training is just definitely not up to par when you’re not training in person but it’s definitely teaching us how to use what you have,” Lovan said. 

Though training no longer remains a huge issue for the fall semester, performances do.

Both Gordan and Lovan faced the cancellation of their end of the year performances, but fourth-year vocal performance and choral music education major Isaiah Chacon faced the cancellation of a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Chacon is a part of the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir at Long Beach, who not only had an end of the year performance cancelled but a two week competition in Germany as well. 

“The biggest reason why I came here was for the ensembles and the performance opportunities and to learn directly from those instructors,” Chacon said. “Now it’s just really difficult to have a lot of that taken away.” 

For many of the students in the college of the arts, performing is their biggest reward. 

The cancellation of so many performances last semester has left these students at a loss. Now, they can only wonder how it will work for fall semester. 

“For the teachers that do teach ensembles, they are mostly going to do virtual choirs, so you’ll record yourself at home and submit it and after a lot of editing they will combine it into one big thing,” Chacon said about his fall classes. 

Gordon doesn’t have the luxury of virtual performances though.

After a large meeting with students and department chairs, Gordon learned that classes such as concert band and symphony orchestra had opted for new material like songwriting, how to record at home, introduction to mixing and recording and more.  Classes that were once intended for practicing and performing were swapped with different teaching material and criteria that are easier to teach and learn through virtual learning. 

But for students like Lovan, so much uncertainty remains when it comes to performing.

“We were deemed too high risk to do hybrid classes so everything will be online,” Lovan said. 

Lovan explained that many professional and local dance companies were utilizing technology and online resources to showcase their work and it has made the dance department more open to that realm of performing, but as of now, nothing is certain. 

Though students within the college of the arts are faced with so much confusion and uncertainty throughout the fall semester, they know one thing for certain. 

The show must go on. 

“It’s very different and we are all trying to stay connected as much as possible,” Lovan said. “But if anything, this just shows how much discipline you have and who really wants it.” 

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