Though it required a lot of planning and adjusting along the way, the Delta Community Music School successfully held their South Delta Jazz Festival both virtually and in-person this year.
With the first week of the festival and workshops being strictly online, some participating students then went on to perform for a camera inside of the beautifully restored Southlands Red Barn in the second and third week.
“We find, when you’re teaching music lessons, there needs to be that performance element, because that’s kind of the reason that we learn songs, learn music – you want to share it, you want to perform it … So to have just music lessons, without performance, it’s kind of missing something, right?” says Stephen Robb, Delta Community Music School’s music director.
Compared to their usual one-week festival and workshop in July, the school bumped it to August this year because they needed a larger space to accommodate for COVID-19 precautions during their two weeks of in-person performances.
Throughout the pandemic, the music school has mostly been online with the exception of some classes being offered in specifically COVID-prepared studios.
“Luckily, we have large studios that have windows. So, we put fans in and we were running in-person lessons in the winter with the windows open, and fans running and HEPA filters running. It was kind of cold and uncomfortable for the few people who were doing in-person stuff,” says Robb with a chuckle.
But most instructors taught online and have continued to teach online only.
Robb anticipates that the school will continue in an online direction for the time being, but says that himself and the board of directors have regular COVID-19 meetings every two weeks to assess and reassess the ongoing situation.
“For a lot of the students, [being online] has worked really well, I have to say. We’ve had some real successes that way … So that’s been an encouragement, the fact that the technology does work. We’ve had to adjust our teaching methods, and there’s a lot more planning that goes into doing anything online, [compared to] when the person’s sitting next to you or across the room from you,” says Robb.
Despite the obstacles, teaching online has helped the school develop a plethora of resources and recordings that can be used even after the pandemic passes.
To watch some of the performances from the South Delta Jazz Festival this fall, keep an eye on the Delta Community Music School’s YouTube channel.