Creatively making a difference: Nevada Union Performing Arts a lifeline in difficult times
Despite all of the challenges of the current school year, the Nevada Union Performing Arts Department is producing several virtual performances, creating engaging lessons, and prioritizing students’ mental health. Over the summer, the faculty collaborated on strategies to best support students during online as well as hybrid classes, including an increased variety of project choices to accommodate students’ unique distance learning obstacles. All lessons were designed with a common mission: “to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students to feel a sense of belonging.”
By the end of first semester, dozens of students in the performing arts responded to an anonymous feedback survey on the impact of these lessons. All responses were optional and freely given. One student wrote, “NU Performing Arts are just fun and enriching, and this class has made me less depressed.” Another student explained, “This is the only class where I feel inclined to turn on my camera and participate. I feel welcomed here as if it’s not just a class, but a community.”
During the fall semester, the dance, drama, and choir programs put together a collaborative virtual concert featuring prerecorded student performances to share with all students and staff at Nevada Union, and it was recently shared with several local elementary and middle schools in Nevada County. Each program also developed course preview videos for incoming students to see a comprehensive overview of each class.
In Rod Baggett’s choir classes, students developed individual voice recordings, as done in professional studios, and then collaborated to digitally synchronize these recordings for a virtual concert.
Rob Metcalfe’s drama students produced a full-length Christmas radio play as well as several individual voice-over video projects.
Dance students in Courtney Wadman’s classes performed socially-distanced dances in small groups, filmed in the Don Baggett Theatre for a virtual fall dance concert. This month, they are releasing the 20th annual Student Choreography Showcase. The dancers chose the theme of “Uplift and Inspire,” using dance to promote positivity. Links to these productions are available on the dance department’s website, nevadauniondance.com.
Under the leadership of Ken Carter, the NU Band students are mastering famous jazz pieces using a virtual program from a Seattle-based non-profit organization, Seattle Jazzed. They are also using a program called MusicFirst, which teaches music theory and allows students to record themselves playing short songs.
The NU Performing Arts classes have been a lifeline for hundreds of students this year. Even without a live audience in the theater, the students are hard at work to prepare for more virtual performances this spring. “Without performing arts I don’t know where I’d be,” said one student. “For many of us, we come to these classes not because we have to, but because we actually want to. We are given the ability to have fun and let loose for an hour of our day, and more importantly create memories and strengthen skills and relationships.”
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