Lisa Condit, director of marketing and public relations, and Meghan Montaner, director of education, have the latest details on exactly how the conservatory is using technology to keep summer programs and classes going. Read on for highlights from their Talk of the Commonwealth interview, then tune in to WCRN 830AM Radio Fridays at 9am and Saturdays at 1pm for more Behind the Scenes interviews.
Lisa: Things have changed rapidly, and the education department did a really good job of adapting.
Meghan: On March 14, we, like many others, had to close and stop having our classes in person. We took just one week to get our teachers trained and offered over 100 classes online so we could continue engaging with our students in a live way through the end of the semester. We actually just finished up those classes. We were really impressed with how many students stuck with us and what we were able to get out of that time. Our students and parents are really appreciative to be able to engage with their teachers who know them and love them and already know what their strengths are and where they need improvement, which is not something you can get just from taking a class online from some other avenue.
Staying Connected Online
Lisa: I know that one of the things people are missing most is that connection and that socialization, so to be able to still be in that community is good for mental health, as well as that artistic technique.
Meghan: It helped our students to be connected with their peers. We’re losing the hallway time, the side conversations. We made sure to talk to our teachers about making time in the class to let the students socialize a little bit and follow up on how they’re doing. And that was a big push for us to continue classes into the summer, which we are doing for the first time.
Both adults and school-aged students were commenting that the class was the thing they most looked forward to in the week. It was their chance to forget what was going on in the world. For those students, they definitely were eager to continue connecting this summer, and for our dance students, it’s also about the training they need to maintain their bodies and their stamina and their flexibility over the summer so we’re ready to go full force when we’re back in person.
Staying Active Throughout the Summer
Lisa: What are the different options?
Meghan: We have a number of online classes in both theatre and dance. This is really a robust summer semester. If you’re looking for a larger commitment, we do still have our summer programs. We’re still working out some of the details for those.
I think what’s been so important for everyone is this understanding that no one has a crystal ball to figure out what’s going to happen. All we can do is come up with a plan that is COVID-proof.
Zoom has a lot of great tools for a dramatic class. Those include breakout rooms. In an improv class, you may do exercises where everyone in the room knows something, and one other person has to figure out what’s going on. We have the ability to send them out of the room. We have the ability to have two people go off in a virtual room and work on their scenes and then come back and present to the group.
Lisa: Dancers become dependent on the ability to make place adjustments that involve touch. How does that work?
Meghan: Our teachers are talking to our students about what their view is on the camera and making sure they’re able to see the part of the body that is essential for safety and correction. Also, for our students to be learning from teachers that already know their habits is really important, because the teachers know to look out for those things while they’re taking a class. There are certain things we’re not going to do in terms of leaps or turns or jumps depending on the type of environment that the student is taking class in.
Lisa: This situation is causing all new ways of creative thinking and solutions, and that’s what’s important in the world.