ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle High School students are preparing for a virtual start to the school year unlike any other, and nowhere is that more true than the school’s band program.
Albemarle High School Band seniors Sarah Beiter and Malachi Keys are shaking off the rust, preparing for a virtual start to the school year, and somehow holding a band class with more than students...entirely online.
“It is a little odd, I’m not going to lie,” Keys said. “I think it’s just a matter of dedicating yourself to, you know, putting in the work to continue growing as a musician.”
Band Director Andrew LaPrade says the challenge of guiding dozens of musicians at once over zoom is a daunting one.
“We have class every day on Zoom, and some of that is going to be practicing, as a group, on Zoom,” LaPrade said. “Some of that’s going to be an individual practice but I recognize that not everyone’s going to go to play in our house at that time,”
Much of it will be finding what works best as they go: just like in Jazz, the name of the game is improvisation.
“Some of that’s gonna be, you know, putting kids into smaller groups and having them play for each other some of that’s going to be playing a recording through my audio and they just play along with the recording,” LaPrade explained.
If all goes well, there could be virtual concerts in AHS’ future. Just like the school did with their Music From Home project, providing a mini concerto for nursing homes this spring. The band also played the school’s fight song during the virtual graduation ceremony this spring.
Even when students return to the high school’s hallways, the band room will remain mostly quiet. LaPrade says they’re following medical advice as to what would be safe.
“The most realistic expectation might be to have, like, a section at a time in the building,” LaPrade explained. “It’s possible.”
Another option includes shifting classes outside in the spring to space out. That’s the approach the AHS marching band is taking, as it shifts its season to spring, following high school football.
“It’s obviously going to be a shorter show, a shorter season, shorter practices,” Beiter said. “I’m so excited that we’re going to be able to try to have a season.”
Of all the thoughts on LaPrade’s mind as the school year begins, one sticks out. He worries about the retention rate of young students just starting their band journey.
How does he keep them interested and invested when the connection is through a screen? That’s where students like Keys and Beiter are stepping in to offer guidance and advice.
“Just work on your skills,” Keys explained. “Listen to great musicians and just take advice from people around you that are trying to help.”