Tag: COVID-19

Conservatory named “hidden gem” as faculty find new ways to connect, teach

Lawrence University students, led here by Director of Orchestral Studies Mark Dupere, gathered for an impromptu performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah just as Winter Term came to an end. Faculty are now finding new ways to enhance music instruction and maintain connections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

As Lawrence University treads new territory with distance learning for Spring Term, a consulting site for prospective music students has given the school’s Conservatory of Music a major salute.

Music School Central named Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music one of the best “hidden gem” music schools in the country. The top-10 ranking placed Lawrence at No. 3.

Bill Zuckerman, who oversees musicschoolcentral.com – he previously authored a column on the Conservatory titled, Is This the World’s Most Socially Conscious Music School? – called Lawrence “the definition of excellence in a liberal arts college music school.”

The ranking is music to the ears of Conservatory Dean Brian Pertl as he and his team launch into a Spring Term like none before. As are professors in departments across campus, the Conservatory faculty have taken up the challenge of keeping the community aspect of the Lawrence experience intact while shifting to distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here.

Lawrence professor launches national fundraiser for artists shut down by COVID-19. See details here.

Tears were shed when word first came down that Lawrence, like other colleges and universities across the country, would be quickly transitioning to virtual instruction during the spring, Pertl said. But the conversation among faculty shifted almost immediately to ways in which the learning experience could still be marked with close faculty-student interactions, community building, and opportunities to tap into skills that will be in demand in the music world going forward.

What’s happened over the past four weeks – Spring Term began Monday following Winter Term finals and a two-week spring break – has been nothing short of amazing, Pertl said.

In the horns studio, Assistant Professor of Music Ann Ellsworth has taken her practice of group warm-ups each morning in Music-Drama Center 163 and transformed it into a daily Zoom session with her horn students. And she’s invited prominent horn makers and horn players from around the globe to interact with her students via Zoom masterclasses.

Horn students join Ann Ellsworth (top middle) for daily warm-ups via Zoom.

“So, horn makers from the U.S. and horn players from places like the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and at least one from Germany will be Zooming in to speak to her horn students,” Pertl said. “It’s sort of taking advantage of this opportunity that a lot of these great musicians in the world are stuck at home, too. They are actually eager to interact with students.”

Trombone professor Tim Albright is working on a virtual trombone ensemble project, recording Charles Ives’ Variations on America, arranged by Lawrence alumus Dominic Ellis ’17. Trombone students will be recording their parts remotely, and the music will be stitched together on campus, thus keeping the trombone ensemble alive, just in a different setting.

Assistant Professor of Music Matthew Arau, who is teaching a rehearsal techniques class for music education, is partnering with middle and high school music programs in Malaysia, led by Lawrence alumnus Dan Miles ’10, and Hong Kong. Lawrence students will direct those music students from afar.

A number of student music groups, most notably in the jazz and improvisation area, will be exploring live improvisation in virtual spaces, performing together even though they are spread across the country or around the world.

Students preparing for junior or senior recitals are re-imagining what those recitals might look like. While some remain on campus and will stream recitals from Harper Hall, others are prepping for remote recitals that incorporate elements and skills that might not otherwise have been considered, including turning a recital into an animation-infused music video.

“All of sudden our students, instead of throwing up their hands and being dejected or saying, ‘I can’t,’ they’ve taken up the challenge, and they’re saying, ‘I can, and not only can I, I am going to do something that is going to push my boundaries,’” Pertl said. “They’re redefining what a recital can be.”

Staying flexible and staying connected are front and center as faculty and students venture into these uncharted waters.

“It’s beautiful, creative flexibility,” Pertl said. “We’re working with our students all the time to say, ‘This is what you’re going to need out there in the world, and this is what’s going to be exciting about being a musician in the world today.’ And they are going to be taking all of these forward-thinking practices, and they’re just going to be doing them, which is a sort of neat and beautiful thing.

“Is it ideal? No, it’s not ideal. Nobody wanted this to happen. But can we make the very, very best of this and come away with skills and knowledge that we wouldn’t have otherwise had to acquire, but skills and knowledge that will be beneficial for our students once they leave here?”

Ellsworth said her daily warm-up sessions with horn students might seem like a small thing, but it’s that sort of personal connection that students most feared would be lost.

“I ask everyone to mute themselves and then choose one student for each exercise to unmute so we can all hear that one person,” Ellsworth said of the sessions. “I play a short exercise from our routine and they all repeat it after me. The purpose of the group warm-up for horn is that half of the benefit is getting the mouthpiece off the face in-between exercises; it slows us down, prevents injury while we’re still cold, and sets us up for the rest of the day.

“But it turns out the real purpose for distance group warm-up is the time after our 45 minutes of playing, when I leave the room but leave the meeting running. I tell them they can hang out or not and that I’ll be back in 20 minutes, and I’ll come back and they are still there, hanging out, talking about student stuff. We had a prospective student join one meeting and I left them there to get acquainted because they can’t come to visit the campus. It’s super productive.”

There are dozens of other examples of collaboration and creativity taking place across the Conservatory as Spring Term gets rolling, Pertl said, all of which speaks to the ideals that landed Lawrence on the “hidden gems” ranking in the first place.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence donates boxes of PPE supplies to aid Appleton’s COVID-19 battle

Abby Screnock and Joe Sagar deliver boxes of Lawrence University’s PPE supplies to the City of Appleton.

Communications

Lawrence University has donated more than 25 boxes of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the City of Appleton for use by health care workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The supplies, which would normally be used by Lawrence students in science labs, came from the school’s Chemistry and Biology departments and included protective gowns, lab coats, goggles, and gloves, said Christyn Abaray, Lawrence’s athletics director and assistant to the president. Professors and staff inventoried the school’s PPE supplies to pull together the donations to make available to the city.

“During these uncertain times around the world, communities are working together in intentional and deliberate ways,” Abaray said. “As an entrenched, established member of the Fox Valley community, we at Lawrence readily mobilized to donate the on-campus PPE supplies for our Fox Valley community’s front line. The only way we will persevere is in partnership with each other.”

Lawrence’s spring term began on Monday. All classes are being held via distance learning.

Looking to pitch in? 4 ways Lawrentians can help during COVID-19 crisis

Kate Zoromski, associate dean of academic success, restocks the student food pantry in Sabin House. The pantry makes food and other necessities available to Lawrence students in times of need. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The move to distance learning to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of this global pandemic is a heavy lift for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff.

These are challenging, unprecedented times. But it’s a path we must take, and we must take it together.

“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity,” President Mark Burstein said in a letter to the Lawrence community announcing the difficult decision to go to distance learning for Spring Term. “I know, as we have in the past, we will rise to this challenge and ensure that Lawrence continues to create a learning environment second to none.”

For details of COVID-19 response at Lawrence, see here.

As we lean into the values and commitment that have always defined the Lawrence experience, we ask everyone in the Lawrence community to do what you can to help our students navigate these uncharted waters. Among the ways we all can help:  

1. Donate to the Student Pantry: Whether for students on campus during spring break or those who will be here during Spring Term due to an inability to get home, the pantry can be an important connection. It offers supplies and food to students, but also needed items such as personal products. You can buy/donate directly through Amazon via a wishlist. Please note that Amazon has removed “non-essential” items from qualifying for rush shipping, but orders and deliveries are still being accepted and processed. More information about the Student Pantry is here: https://www.lawrence.edu/students/services/foodpantry

2. Contribute to the Lawrence Fund: The Lawrence Fund – Supporting Our Students (SOS) emergency fund has been established to aid students’ unexpected and urgent expenses related to the impacts of COVID-19. This fund will make available critical resources for immediate needs like our new distance-learning model, food, travel, housing, and other unexpected expenses. Every contribution helps support the University’s ability to assist students.

3. Be an alumni connection: Help Lawrence students network by signing up for our new Viking Connect program. Connecting with a current student and providing some positive guidance has never been more important. This is a chance to reach out virtually while still making a personal connection. See link here: https://vikingconnect.lawrence.edu/page/about

4. Support each other: Be supportive of other Lawrentians through use of the Alumni Directory. Stay connected in these difficult times and check in on one another using the directory and via Lawrence’s many social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Find the alumni directory here: go.lawrence.edu/profile

We are Lawrentians, now and forever. Let’s come together to be supportive as we grapple with difficult challenges and show our current students the path forward. In the darkness of uncertainty and deep angst, let us again be the light.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu