Choir students at Waconia High School were scheduled to compete April 28 in the Region 2AA Solo and Ensemble Contest at Shakopee High School. Region contest is an opportunity for students to sing individually, perform their selections in front of judges and compete against other students from the region.

The Contest is an annual event. It’s something that vocal students start to prepare for early in the school year, and a culmination of their hard work throughout the year, notes Aaron Olson, vocal music teacher/director.

With classrooms closed and school events cancelled due to COIVD-19, this year WHS held its own virtual contest, and had 55 students participate.

“With the move to distance learning, we are all trying to keep the kids engaged and trying to keep school as normal as we can, and I wanted to provide those students that wanted it a chance to still compete in the contest,” Olson said.

The music program hired some of its private voice teachers Matt Tintes, Anna Cristofaro, Daniel Greco and Chris Starr to serve as judges for the day, and students were assigned times that they could enter a “virtual room” and perform their songs like they would at a normal contest.

Of course, there were a few adjustments, starting with accompanists, Olson explained.

“We had to make sure that all students had a recording of their accompaniment track to sing with at home because trying to sing with a live accompanist using Google Meets was not going to work due to the time lag,” he said.

Ultimately, students were able to sing their song and then receive live feedback from a judge when they were done. Many of the boys dressed up in a suit and tie and the girls wore dresses like they would in a live, on-stage performance.

“It was so fun to see these amazing kids get an opportunity to perform their contest pieces that they had prepared for so long,” Olson said. “I am so proud of how hard these students have worked, stayed engaged in class and continue to get better every day. It has been so fun to watch them grow.”

With distance learning, students were given concert literature to practice during the week and a recording assignment where they made a video recording and sent it in for feedback each week.

Olson notes the first week many of the students were sitting on their beds singing very quietly so no one in the house could hear them. They were not using good posture or vocal technique and the first recordings were not all that impressive.

But their recordings improved each week. And students found interesting places to sing around the house without fear of being heard – like the garage, bathroom, a closet, even a barn.

“As we have progressed each week, it has been exciting to watch the students grow with confidence,” Olson said. “They are learning to be independent singers.”

Olson said he certainly doesn’t prefer distance learning to being able to work with his students in person.

“I miss my students every day, but am grateful for the technology that we have allowing us to still connect and grow together,” he said.

And one thing he has enjoyed about distance learning is the opportunity to hear each student individually each week.

“In a choir setting, it can be easy to blend in and be more of a follower because you can listen to those around you and follow their lead,” Olson said. “The ability to provide individual feedback to students is something that I have really enjoyed to the point that I plan to continue some of these practices once we are able to get back together as a choir.”

by AL LOHMANal.lohman@ecm-inc.com

Choir students at Waconia High School were scheduled to compete April 28 in the Region 2AA Solo and Ensemble Contest at Shakopee High School. Region contest is an opportunity for students to sing individually, perform their selections in front of judges and compete against other students from the region. The Contest is an annual event. It’s something that vocal students start to prepare for early in the school year, and a culmination of their hard work throughout the year, notes Aaron Olson, vocal music teacher/director.With classrooms closed and school events cancelled due to COIVD-19, this year WHS held its own virtual contest, and had 55 students participate.“With the move to distance learning, we are all trying to keep the kids engaged and trying to keep school as normal as we can, and I wanted to provide those students that wanted it a chance to still compete in the contest,” Olson said. The music program hired some of its private voice teachers Matt Tintes, Anna Cristofaro, Daniel Greco and Chris Starr to serve as judges for the day, and students were assigned times that they could enter a “virtual room” and perform their songs like they would at a normal contest. Of course, there were a few adjustments, starting with accompanists, Olson explained. “We had to make sure that all students had a recording of their accompaniment track to sing with at home because trying to sing with a live accompanist using Google Meets was not going to work due to the time lag,” he said.Ultimately, students were able to sing their song and then receive live feedback from a judge when they were done. Many of the boys dressed up in a suit and tie and the girls wore dresses like they would in a live, on-stage performance. “It was so fun to see these amazing kids get an opportunity to perform their contest pieces that they had prepared for so long,” Olson said. “I am so proud of how hard these students have worked, stayed engaged in class and continue to get better every day. It has been so fun to watch them grow.”With distance learning, students were given concert literature to practice during the week and a recording assignment where they made a video recording and sent it in for feedback each week. Olson notes the first week many of the students were sitting on their beds singing very quietly so no one in the house could hear them. They were not using good posture or vocal technique and the first recordings were not all that impressive. But their recordings improved each week. And students found interesting places to sing around the house without fear of being heard – like the garage, bathroom, a closet, even a barn.  “As we have progressed each week, it has been exciting to watch the students grow with confidence,” Olson said.  “They are learning to be independent singers.”Olson said he certainly doesn’t prefer distance learning to being able to work with his students in person.“I miss my students every day, but am grateful for the technology that we have allowing us to still connect and grow together,” he said. And one thing he has enjoyed about distance learning is the opportunity to hear each student individually each week. “In a choir setting, it can be easy to blend in and be more of a follower because you can listen to those around you and follow their lead,” Olson said. “The ability to provide individual feedback to students is something that I have really enjoyed to the point that I plan to continue some of these practices once we are able to get back together as a choir.”

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