Far from home, Nigerian-born prep star pursues academic and basketball dreams in Michigan - MLive.com

When Peter Nwoke remembers the last hug he shared with his mother, a smile spreads across his face. It was a hug 10 months in the making and it remains one of his favorite memories. “It was the best feeling ever,” Nwoke said. The hug happened back in 2018 when Nwoke was just 15 years old. He had just completed the long 14-hour flight home from Detroit Metro Airport to his home Lagos, Nigeria, where his sister, Roselyne, was waiting to pick him up and take him home for a three-week stay. When Nwoke’s mother, Adamma, laid eyes on her son, she rushed to him before he made it to the front door. “My mom hugged me for five-straight minutes,” Nwoke said. “I wasn’t even in the house yet.” It was the first time he had returned to his hometown since moving to the United States in 2017 to fulfill an academic scholarship he obtained at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory, a Catholic boarding school in southeast Michigan. Up until that point, it was the longest Nwoke had ever been away from ho

Holiday Fund: CSMA's arts education moves from the classroom to online - Mountain View Voice

Holiday Fund: CSMA's arts education moves from the classroom to online - Mountain View Voice

Holiday Fund: CSMA's arts education moves from the classroom to online - Mountain View Voice

Posted: 24 Dec 2020 09:51 AM PST

When local schools and businesses closed their doors due to COVID-19 in March, the Community School of Music & Arts acted quickly to move its in-person art and music classes, lessons, camps and concerts to an online format.

"Many of our offerings could be presented online with little disruption. Faculty members received training in best practices for online teaching, and staff made some adjustments to the way programs were offered to be more compatible with a virtual format," said CSMA's Executive Director Vickie Scott Grove.

Indeed, the school has maintained a robust schedule of virtual arts learning and concerts throughout the pandemic.

A more challenging question, however, was how to continue serving the tens of thousands of students served by CSMA's Art4Schools and Music4School programs, which provide sequential, standards-based arts education in public schools -- and in many cases are students' only access to arts education. In Mountain View, these programs are supported by donations to the Mountain View Educational Foundation and offered in partnership with the Mountain View Whisman School District.

According to Art4Schools Program Manager Jennifer Mineer, "We have been so impressed by the hard work and innovation that our incredible teachers and school partners have put forth to continue art and music education for students who are learning from home. Our district partners work tirelessly with us to address everything from scheduling needs to instrument distribution, and, as a result, we are able to seamlessly integrate arts education into students' online school day."

As a result, the Art4Schools and Music4Schools programs are bringing a dose of creativity to online lessons in every elementary school in the Mountain View Whisman District.

Two CSMA art teachers, Wendy Ron and Karla Navarro, describe what it has been like teaching online.

Ron, who teaches at Stevenson PACT Elementary, says that though she misses seeing students in person, virtual learning has its upsides. She has seen introverted students open up more since they can now type questions to her in the chat section of their screens and her younger students now "have no problem keeping their hands to themselves."

One of her favorite things about teaching online is seeing parents, siblings and pets join her classes.

"We are engaging with families right in their homes. Students are excited to share the art they have hung in their room or around their homes," Ron said.

She is happy to provide parents with a moment of peace: "I am grateful (parents) can rely on me to connect with their child in a meaningful way and to support them in a moment of need. That makes me feel really good."

Bilingual art teacher Navarro teaches at the District's Spanish immersion school, Gabriela Mistral. Her favorite teaching moments have been watching students' reactions to her lesson plans. She says her students "always have genuine, honest responses. Their expressions of excitement, wonderment and curiosity are so pure."

Despite the occasional technical hiccups, she finds satisfaction in teaching online "knowing that it's (my students) on the other side of the screens eagerly waiting for me."

Navarro's favorite lesson is teaching fourth graders about California missions using line, contour and perspective. In the process of teaching this art lesson, Navarro ensures her students learn about land acknowledgment and the Native American experience around the missions.

"Art is my favorite subject," said Mistral fourth-grader Nicolas P. "I look forward to Friday (lessons) all week. I like how Ms. Karla tells stories about the history of art while she teaches us. She's a great teacher, who's very kind to kids and knows a lot about art and all the things behind it."

CSMA is one of seven local nonprofits that benefit from donations to the Voice's Holiday Fund. By partnering with Silicon Valley Community Foundation to administer its annual Holiday Fund campaign, 100% of charitable donations go to agencies serving the local community. CSMA uses contributions support important programs such as financial aid and the in-school arts programs serving public school students who may not otherwise have access to an arts education.

Pantyhose and Trash Bags: How Music Programs Are Surviving in the Pandemic - The New York Times

Posted: 03 Dec 2020 12:00 AM PST

In 13 years of playing flute, Gabriella Alvarez never imagined playing with a clear plastic trash bag around her instrument. Kevin Vigil never foresaw his fellow tuba players wrapping pantyhose around their instrument bells.

And neither expected to watch their marching band at New Mexico State University play through cloth face masks, separated by six-foot loops of water pipe, with bags filled with hand sanitizer and disinfectant strapped around their waists.

But this is band practice in a pandemic.

The two students, both seniors, are grateful to have practice at all. In March, the coronavirus shut down their band along with much of the country, painfully demonstrating that the pandemic would leave no part of their education untouched. It would take five months for them to regain the precious ability to play together again.

"In the middle of this summer, I started playing my instrument alone and sat there crying because I was just so upset," Ms. Alvarez, 22, said. "Making music with other people is part of why I do it."

In dozens of interviews, students and educators described similar travails — and similar adaptations — in music programs across the country. In many districts, schools have paused their music programs or moved them online out of concerns that aerosol transmission of the coronavirus during band or chorus practices would turn them into superspreader events.

Those bands and orchestras that have moved their programs online often found that ordinary video chat platforms are inadequate because of audio lag. And students have said there is simply no substitute for in-person practices, performances and instruction. Even in small group or private lesson via webcam, the details of proper posture, pitch and rhythm are lost, they said.

Ms. Alvarez, who is studying music performance, lost the one-on-one guidance she needed to prepare for auditions with professional orchestras. Mr. Vigil's first student teaching position, critical for the degree in music education he is seeking, was canceled. Rather than risk entering a job market ravaged by the virus, both chose to postpone graduation.

Unable to introduce music to children during their formative years, teachers fear a lasting drop in participation that could wipe out much of the next generation of musicians.

"If children and even college students can't participate in music, it's going to create such a void and it's going to reverberate for a long time," said Mark J. Spede, president of the College Band Directors National Association.

Instead of ensemble music, some programs have been teaching music history or theory, or having students submit videos of themselves playing their instruments that are incorporated into collages that make it seem as if they are performing together. But creating such collages requires resources that many schools cannot afford.

At North Kansas City High School in Missouri, where the governor has slashed the education budget, the band director Carrie Epperson has only half of last year's funds, and she is still waiting on bell covers her school district promised to send to wind instrumentalists. Nevertheless, mask wearing and strict social distancing seem to have worked: no band members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Brenna Ohrmundt is the band director for a small, low-income district in rural Wisconsin, where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks. When schools shuttered in March, many students did not have instruments at home. When they returned to classrooms this fall, they still were not allowed to play together.

"What I'm afraid of is, students are going to say, 'This is not what I signed up for,'" Ms. Ohrmundt said.

Yet, at a time when students could be discouraged from continuing to study music, educators are finding innovative ways for them to play together safely.

Mr. Spede, who is also director of bands at Clemson University, recognized early on that educators did not know which music activities might be safe. He initiated a study in which researchers at the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland have been measuring the spread of aerosols when people sing, dance or play instruments.

"My biggest fear was that people, administrators, whoever were going to have a knee-jerk reaction and say that can't possibly be safe, to play music in person," Mr. Spede said. "What we're trying to do with the study is, literally, save music."

Preliminary results from the study show that some simple rules can help prevent the virus from spreading in music groups: mask wearing, even if that entails cutting a hole in it to play an instrument; covering the bell of brass instruments, such as trumpets, with nylon (pantyhose work); and practicing outdoors where possible, or in properly ventilated areas.

"Even that information gives people hope right now, which we desperately need," said Rebecca Phillips, president of the National Band Association and the director of bands at Colorado State University.

Ms. Alvarez cried tears of joy and relief on the day in August when New Mexico State's marching band reunited.

Steven Smyth, the university's associate director of bands, worked all summer with faculty and students to put into place safety measures. Practice is now always outdoors. To enforce social distancing, Mr. Smyth designed six-foot "hula hoops" made of water pipes that encircle each musician. He recruited a flute player who is studying engineering to customize masks with slits that snap shut magnetically for the woodwind players.

Nylon bell covers were ordered for brass players. And, following another recommendation from the study, brass players must empty "spit valves," a tap that drains condensation from inside the instrument, onto absorptive puppy pee pads.

"There was a lot of negativity going around," Ms. Alvarez said. "But once those masks came out, a lot of people started saying, 'Oh, we're coming back. This is happening.'"

Mr. Smyth said this week that the marching band had not had a student test positive for the coronavirus. Nationally, the College Band Directors National Association reports that no infections among college band students have been attributed to band activities, Mr. Spede said.

"I feel a little bit safer just knowing that there are a lot of people fighting to keep the arts alive," Mr. Vigil said.

Other schools have used similarly creative measures. Villanova University ordered goggles for their marching band after researchers in China found fewer virus cases among people with glasses, suggesting that eye protection could reduce spread of the virus. At West Chester University, plexiglass walls separate instructors from students in private lessons.

The Northern Virginia Community College campus in Annandale, Va., is home to a thriving symphony orchestra, open to students and members of the community. Despite having fewer resources and a smaller music department than most universities, it has the support of Reunion Music Society, a local nonprofit group that helped it reach record enrollment this year.

"This orchestra would not exist without community involvement," said Ralph Brooker, president of Reunion Music Society and principal cellist in the orchestra.

This fall, the conductor, Christopher Johnston, has been organizing about 50 active orchestra members, who include older musicians, into small groups. Some rehearse six feet apart in carports and church parking lots, but most use JamKazam, a video chat platform that allows musicians to see and hear each other in real time.

The technology is imperfect. At a jazz group meeting, JamKazam kept booting Mr. Johnston off the call. The musicians turned to Zoom, where audio lag caused the individual parts of "My Funny Valentine" to trip drunkenly over each other. The song was barely recognizable, but the musicians grinned in their little onscreen boxes — the thrill of playing together had not been dampened.

"There is therapy in getting together with other musicians." Mr. Johnston said. "It's helping us cope with all of the negative byproducts of this time, one of which is loneliness."

Safety measures have gone far to reassure students and educators. Results from a survey distributed this fall show that participation in school and community bands has held steady since last year, according to James Weaver, director of performing arts with the National Federation of State High School Associations. Though about 200 of the more than 2,000 band programs surveyed are currently "frozen," only four education-based bands were canceled outright.

Musicians at every level say that those who were passionate about a career in music before the pandemic are only more motivated now. Ms. Alvarez plans to get a master's degree in music performance after she graduates. Mr. Vigil, who aspires to teach music at the college level, has leaned into his leadership role with the marching band.

In Wisconsin, Ms. Ohrmundt spent weeks hand-sewing masks, soliciting donations of bell covers and scrounging up pillowcases that woodwind players could wrap around their instruments — all in hopes of gathering her high school band in the gym for its first practice in months. But a surge in the virus has postponed in-person activities into next year.

In Missouri, Nevaeh Diaz, who graduated from North Kansas City High School in May, is now studying music education at Missouri State University.

In playing the drums in high school, Ms. Diaz had found a healthy outlet for her anxiety and depression. And during the pandemic, she leaned even more on her band director, Ms. Epperson, who personally delivered one of the school's expensive marimbas to Ms. Diaz's home for a virtual scholarship audition.

Now she looks at Ms. Epperson as a model for the high school band director she aims to become.

"I'm not here for the money, I'm here to change a life," Ms. Diaz said. "If I can be the teacher to the student that Epp was for me, then I will do that."


Popular posts from this blog

For inbound college students — and universities — fall semester presents new choices and dilemmas - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Excelsior College Named Graduating and Transfer University for Study.com - Yahoo Finance

Two "Bright Outlook Occupations" Training Programs | Seekonk, MA Patch - Patch.com