Music & Dance News, June 2020

The VPA Choir program has exciting plans for the 2020-2021 school year, but so far 2020 has not gone exactly as planned. There is still a lot of uncertainty moving forward and we aren’t sure what impact Covid-19 will have on VPA classes and rehearsals. We are doing the best we can to work around changing circumstances and health recommendations. 

As part of the changes we have planned for the fall, we are expanding our music theory instruction thanks to a grant we received last year. You might ask, “Why music theory?” The term “music theory” is a bit of a misnomer: a better description of what we are trying to do is to increase music literacy. Being able to read and understand music gives you increased tools for making music an enriching part of your entire life. If a person does not know how to read, they can still live, but their experience and opportunities will be greatly diminished. Similarly, you can get by without knowing how to read music, but your experiences and opportunities as a musician will be greatly diminished. We want our VPA students to have a full and vibrant musical experience that prepares them for a lifetime of music-making. 

Here are some of the changes we have planned for fall:

  • We will have later start times to accommodate the later start of middle school and high school in the Sherwood School District  
  • We are renaming Kids Choir to “Explorers”
  • We are renaming Elementary Choir to “Firstnotes”
  • Musicianship/theory classes will split by level instead of age. This way more advanced students will receive more advanced instruction. 
  • Musicianship/theory class will be included for Counterpoint vocal ensemble.  
  • Students will be able to pass off different levels of theory and earn awards through National Federation of Music Clubs exams
  • VPA Performance Company will be replaced by a Musical Theatre Workshop. It will still include both dance and vocal instruction, but will be made up of smaller groups (formed based on auditions the first week of class) performing musical theatre ensemble numbers. These will give students the opportunity to perform for each other and hone their skills. They will also practice skills for auditions, preparing monologues, etc. We will end the year with a chance for them to showcase their work.
  • We are expanding our high school music theory offerings to include courses in Songwriting and Improvisation. 

Back to the difficulties at hand…. Singing can be a particularly risky activity for spreading Covid-19. Scientists believe singing can be particularly dangerous because it may aerosolize particles that contain the virus, which could stay in the air for several hours. There are concerns that distancing and masks may not provide sufficient protection because of the possibility of these aerosolized particles lingering in the air. The safest option for singing right now is to sing outdoors -which will work for summer camps, but probably not through the winter. 

We want to ensure the safety of all of our VPA participants, so we are waiting for more information before making a decision about choir classes in the fall. We are still exploring ways to be able to meet again safely. A large study being conducted on the topic of singing and aerosolization of virus particles should have preliminary results by the end of June. This should provide some more information. 

When we open fall registration, we will have students register as “wait list only:” you will register and reserve a spot in the class of your choice, but will not pay tuition until we have confirmed that fall classes will proceed. You can find the VPA 2020-2021 Class Schedule here.

The part I love most about VPA is working with the kids and feeling their energy and their enthusiasm as they learn. I miss that interaction and want so much to be able to work with the kids again in person. But I also want to make sure we aren’t taking unnecessary or irresponsible risks. We will keep you posted as we have more information. 

With hope,     
Karen Porter, Program Director of Sherwood VPA Choirs