Two local music teachers are working in harmony to bring a popular extra-curricular activity into the virtual space.
Laura Lee Matthie and Laura Christie, both music teachers at Orillia Secondary School, are working together to bring an after-school virtual band together, with their first practice slated for this week.
“We had talked throughout the summer not knowing what September was going to look like. We thought it was important to keep our music community together doing something,” said Matthie.
When September hit and Matthie was informed wind instruments and singing were prohibited as part of new school safety protocols, the duo decided they wanted to work together to come up with some kind of music program outside of class time.
“We had kids emailing us and sending us messages a week before school started, so we knew they wanted it. We just needed to get our heads wrapped around how it could be possible,” said Matthie.
With students all having differing internet situations, Matthie said the band won’t be as simple as everyone getting on their webcams and playing together.
Initially, Matthie said the plan is to have a guiding track and each student recording themselves playing along. Tracks will then be sent to Matthie and Christie, who will then edit the student tracks together. Students will also engage in games so the experience will be more social.
Matthie said she attended workshops over the summer to learn how to navigate the technology.
“We can stop and start and have students work through parts like we would in a regular rehearsal,” said Matthie. “There are a few tech things we still have to figure out, but we know it can work on a small scale.
The band will be starting with a Grade 10/11/12 group, but may expand as time goes on.
“We think the initial number will be small, until the word gets out,” said Matthie
Matthie has been teaching music since 1995. With COVID-19, many extracurriculars at local schools have been put on hold, so she felt it was necessary to try to bring the group together. Both virtual and in-class students are eligible to join the band.
She said music is important for young people.
“There’s a whole concept of team building and not being benched. There’s a spot for everyone regardless of your skill level,” she said. “We’re pretty excited to do it and the students are pretty excited to ‘come together’ and be that little community family.”
Matthie said while she expects there will be growing pains for the first few sessions, she hopes the students will be able to focus on the positive.
“Our main goal is to have fun and build our community. It’s all dependent on tech. If we could produce a song based on our virtual learning, that would be awesome,” said Matthie. “The kids miss what they used to have. It’s sort of bringing that back for them.”
If you have a child at Orillia Secondary School and they would like to join the virtual band, contact Laura Lee Matthie or Laura Christie through the school.