Continuing to Make Music, One Virtual Video at a Time

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Continuing to Make Music, One Virtual Video at a Time

Laura Patterson, Executive Director, Make Music NOLA, New Orleans, LA


Like programs all over the country, Make Music NOLA (MMN) was forced in March 2020 to quickly reinvent our programs for virtual learning. For our after-school students, we created weekly video lessons designed to take the place of their music theory, chamber ensemble, and fiddle classes. But these videos weren’t workable for the 100 students we reach through in-school programming—who attend several different charter schools, were doing remote learning through different systems, and, because of the abruptness of school closures, didn’t even have instruments at home.

For these students, we created and emailed a ten-minute video every week. Each video focused on a different topic—ranging from careers in music to different instruments, music writing, and music listening—and included a short homework assignment. We provided extra incentives, such as memes, for sending in assignments, and every week we chose five samples of student work to highlight on social media.

The results surprised us greatly. We were used to having little communication with our in-school students’ families. Suddenly, we were getting emails and phone calls from parents we’d never heard from before. They texted six assignments to us at 10 p.m. on Saturday night. Sometimes they sent us eight weeks’ worth of lessons at once. We discovered that families were under so much stress that having the ability to do things on their own time, instead of within a schedule of virtual classes, was a huge relief for them. They started to look forward to receiving our emailed videos each week. Sometimes we got advance requests from parents worried that they’d missed an email!

For the students, knowing that their teachers were creating something special for them every week gave them something to look forward to. They felt relieved because the videos were short and the assignments were done offscreen. For their parents, having assignments that students could complete and return on their own time gave them a sense of agency and control.

Our school partners heard about the work we were doing from parents. When it came time to renew our contracts for this coming school year, all of our hours increased. And although we are very excited to see our students in person again, we are working on a weekly video series for independent learning. For the simple reason that it works for our students!


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