Arts are hands-on disciplines. The nature of the disciplines requires interaction and direct communication between the faculties and students to yield the best results. Hence, studio lessons have been essential for the arts. However, due to COVID and safety protocols, the studios in Myers Fine Arts building are facing some challenges that they have never before.
“The biggest challenge is obviously not being able to meet face to face,” professor Pamela Lavin, who gives vocal lessons said. “Due to the technological advantages, specifically when giving lessons via Zoom, the voice quality was horrible, the connection was bad and there were lags. In order words, there was no communication in real-time.” Ferruccio Busoni, a famous musician, once said, “Music is the art of sounds in the movement of time.” For musicians, the concept of “real time” or “musical time” is extremely important.
The performer and the accompanist need to communicate with each other and make sure the sounds produced are on time, so that the music is as artistic and beautiful as possible. It could be argued that sounds that are not in time create the worst music. That is exactly what Lavin and her students face when they are having studio lessons through Zoom.
“It was impossible to accompany my student,” she said. Lavin hopes that the students will get vaccinated soon, so teaching can go back to the traditional ways. Even when faculties and students are allowed to have lessons in studios with masks on, the quality of teaching still lies between having lessons on Zoom and doing it the traditional way.
“I am a visual teacher,” she said. “I’m always watching the mouths, teeth, and jaws of the students to adjust their techniques. With the masks on, it’s hard to detect where the tension is and I cannot immediately help them.”
“The greatest challenge I have been facing is continuing face-to-face studio times,Norman Taber, graphic designer and illustrator said. “I have always been teaching studios face-to-face ever since last semester. Instead of the normal way, I broke the class into two sections. Studio time is extremely important for the students and ensuring that quality is difficult for me because I have to teach the same things to groups of students.”
Taber has been very committed to face-to-face studio lessons because graphic design, like every other arts discipline, is very hands-on. Ensuring students face-to-face studio lessons is one challenge, but coping with the safety protocols is another.
“Normally my studio is very interactive,” Taber said. “We would have regular feedback between the students and me. But the masks quiet the students down a bit and the class becomes harder. Not only do I have to do more teachings, but I also have to pull more speeches out of them.”
Setting up the studios to make sure students are socially distancing, while ensuring the quality of the studio lesson, is definitely a challenge for faculties.
“The greatest challenge is definitely to set up the studios to get it fit for teaching,” Erika Guay, Professor giving stage costume studio lessons said. “Usually, you don’t have to think about the setup. But now not only do I have to find a new room with windows, ventilation and equipment, I also have to think of a way to set up the sewing machines.”
Similar to Taber, Guay has been dividing her class into sections to ensure safety, but that also means that she has to teach the same thing multiple times.
“You teach the same thing more often. On top of that, I need to make extra sure that the environment is safe. I researched how long COVID sits on fabric, the answer is three days. You also need to make sure students are not sharing tools anymore, but I think they are doing a good job at that.” Guay chuckled.
The faculties are taking extra steps to ensure students are safe and receiving the best qualities in their studio lessons. This requires a lot of effort and time, but brings great joy in the end as the faculties see their students thrive.