Troy High School orchestra students perform 6 feet apart under a tent, while sporting face coverings, due to COVID-19.

Troy High School orchestra students perform 6 feet apart under a tent, while sporting face coverings, due to COVID-19.

Photo provided by the Troy School District


Pandemic doesn’t stop the music in Troy

District earns music education ranking 14 years straight

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published April 30, 2021

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TROY — Troy School District music educators are celebrating another big victory this year, despite several changes the department has made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district has been named a 2021 Best Community for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants and the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas. This is the district’s 14th consecutive year receiving the recognition.

“I think it says a lot for the community of Troy. It says a lot (about) how the administration and the Board of Education support arts in the Troy School District,” Troy School District Elementary Music Department Coordinator Rosanne Thomas said. “They’re giving us time with students. They’re giving us funding. They’re supporting us in every way around. Every consideration, we’re always in the room helping to make those decisions and helping give input so our perspective is heard and respected.”

Funding and other support hasn’t just come from the district’s administrators, however. Athens and Troy High School choir director Adrienne Covien said parents have stepped up in many ways to keep the district’s music programs going. “They’re 100% behind us,” she said.

It hasn’t all been fun and games for the district’s music department, though. As COVID-19 closed classrooms, it also shuttered the department’s ability to meet face to face, practice together and perform.

“From a secondary aspect, everything is performance, ensemble based, and for a lot of these kids, their music class is where their community is, where their friends are,” Covien said. “Not being able to see those people in person and not being able to make music together took a big toll on them, I think. I know as a teacher there was a big grieving process for me to realize we weren’t going to have shows this year. … We’ve had to find other ways to do that.”

The pandemic situation may have caused educators to have to transfer from teaching in class to finding ways to engage students over Zoom, but both Covien and Thomas say that’s brought about a few silver linings.

“The bad thing is we’re not singing, but the good thing is that we have the time to give attention to so many other aspects of music. Listening, things to listen for, being critical about our listening; we’re delving into other histories and cultures, and instruments from other cultures. We’re delving into composers,” Thomas said. “We always feel like there’s so much we have to teach, and we have to pick and choose what we can teach. Now we’re getting to pick and choose from the basket we don’t normally get to choose from.”

Covien added that students seem to be building a greater appreciation for the music they learn in the classroom because of the shift in focus.

The introduction of new technologies and software programs has brought forth another positive aspect for the students as well. Thomas and Covien said that by using programs like GarageBand, SmartMusic, Acapella and Noteflight, students have gained a level of autonomy in their performance work that they didn’t have as much of previously.

The additional autonomy has led students to be more excited and motivated about the lessons they’re learning, Thomas added.

Whether or not students at each level — elementary, middle school and secondary — have been working together as an ensemble varies. Thomas said that with her teaching more than 550 elementary-age students each week, she’s decided to teach virtually to avoid spreading the virus.

For the middle and high schoolers, Covien said she’s had her students meet as an ensemble outdoors “in a COVID-safe environment” a handful of times last fall, and she plans to get back together with students as much as she can with warmer weather approaching.

“If we can just give them a little time to do that, it keeps them engaged and excited about ensemble work,” Covien said.

COVID-19 may have taken away students’ and educators’ ability to meet as an ensemble, but Thomas is, at the very least, happy she was able to keep her position in the music department, rather than being shifted around.

“I feel privileged that I’m working, and I know other districts, what they’ve done is they’ve put teachers like me into being a substitute teacher for other areas besides music,” Thomas said. “I think (the Troy district administrators) felt it’s important that our children are still getting music and still getting that exposure. For many kids, music is the reason they show up.”

For more information, visit troy.k12.mi.us.

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