She bought a warm down coat. She had three heaters installed for the kids. And she has dragged a keyboard and speakers outside every day to rehearse with her choir students since going to a hybrid schedule. Mrs. Hazelrigg has been teaching music for 23 years, but she’s never had a year like this one.
“I had to change all of my goals and ideas,” says the veteran choir director. The BCHS choir program is typically driven by performances. Mrs. Hazelrigg plans lessons according to the music of the next concert. The top choir can have as many as thirteen performances scheduled in a normal year. That’s a heavy schedule for a university choir program, let alone a high school choir. This year though, zero performances.
Like everyone else, COVID-19 forced Mrs. Hazelrigg to rethink how she goes about teaching music. She has spent a lot of time thinking about what her students really need during these times. She’s focused on finding opportunities to encourage students and give them a reason to smile.
“I’ve had to convince them that they can smile even with their mask on,” she says.
She says that she has tried to design choir to give students a sense of normalcy during what we will all remember as a very abnormal year. The choirs still sang Christmas music during the holidays even though they were not able to have their annual Christmas concert.
For centuries, music has been a critical part of a classical education. Arts education has a strong link to high-performing students and schools.
“The best schools have the best arts programs,” says long-time arts advocate, Charles Fowler in his book, Strong Arts, Strong Schools (Fowler, p. 46).
Enlightened school boards know that without a sufficient arts education, students are deprived of a whole fundamental world of understanding. The arts represent humanity. They are the languages through which we express our fears, our anxieties, our hungers, our struggles, our hopes (Fowler, p. 56).
This final sentiment has never been on display more than in 2020 and the first part of 2021. We have looked to artists of all disciplines to entertain us, inspire us, make us laugh, and give us some sense that things will be alright.
Beyond reminding us of our humanity, the arts are proving to be the future of the economy. While linear, analytical thinking was prized in the previous industrial and information ages, non-linear, creative thinking will drive the future in what Daniel Pink calls the Conceptual Age. In his book, A Whole New Mind, Pink writes, “The keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers” (Pink p. 1).
The strong history of music and art at Berean Christian is evidence that the school takes seriously its responsibility to develop creative, innovative problem solvers prepared to contribute to society in meaningful ways.
“I believe music is a gift from God,” says Mrs. Hazelrigg. She’s used that gift as a vehicle to help students who have shown signs of pandemic fatigue. She encourages them to sing out and have fun during rehearsals.
“Sometimes they come in with slumped shoulders, but [after singing together] they leave with a new energy,” she says. “I can see a bounce in their step.”
There have also been times when the students have encouraged her when she has felt down about the limitations that the pandemic has placed on her choir program.
“I’ve been shocked at the tenacity of the kids during this past year,” she says. “And their parents have written letters of encouragement to teachers. They have really blessed us at the school.”
Hazelrigg says that the love and unity that has been fostered during this time has been a wonderful byproduct of the pandemic. We have had to endure a lot of disruption to our lives this year. An increased sense of love and unity within our communities is certainly a welcome byproduct.