COVID-19 and various safety precautions have changed the way students learn and interact with others. For performing arts students, the pandemic has also affected their rehearsals and performances.
Performing arts in high school showcases students’ artistic talents and hard work by providing audience members with beautiful performances. Those students and audience members can no longer be in-person to experience plays, dances, concerts and so forth. Such performances and rehearsals take place with students in close proximity and in enclosed spaces, which would not adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Even though students may haven’t had the opportunity to train in person and perform for a long time, students, parents and teachers have worked harder than ever this school year to create a positive learning environment where students can continue to push themselves and perform abiding by HBUHSD COVID-19 safety precautions.
Performing arts students and teachers from Edison High School, Fountain Valley High School, Huntington Beach High School and Marina High School shared their perspectives on how performing arts have adapted to the new school year, as well as what they have accomplished and what they are hoping to accomplish in the future.
What specific changes have you made to your classes? Can you describe a regular class?
In accordance with COVID-19 health guidelines, students must wear masks and practice social distancing at all times
“We have to wear masks 24/7 but nothing else has really changed. So we first warm-up and we have little pods that we have to stand it, the class is split in half and everyone has to be six feet apart,” said sophomore Chelsea Lasky, a cheer member and student at HBHS.
Katy Bell, a sophomore in the Fountain Valley High School Theatre Program, said performances are now recorded.
“We record everything now, there’s no audience; it’s hard for actors who perform live because we feed off the energy of the audience,” Bell said. “We have scenes being recorded, we’ve never had that before.”
Bell added that for a long time, theater students couldn’t pass props to each other.
Junior Payton Moore, who is majoring in musical theater at the Huntington Beach High School Academy of Performing Arts, also has seen her practices change drastically.
“For my opera class, we will go and sing the songs, learn the music, if our teacher wants to hear us individually, he has a backtrack and will play,” Moore said. “Hopefully, we are all in sync and we know when to unmute to sing our part and hope for the best. He tries to play the piano, but it doesn’t work over Zoom.”
Despite some of the challenges of adapting to new protocols, many remain optimistic. Tara Bearden, the head coach of Fountain Valley’s pep squad, for example, continues to encourage her team to keep working as hard as they can.
“We still practice just like normal during the pandemic, just virtually,” Bearden said. “We are keeping them strong, lots of conditioning and stretching to keep their bodies ready for when having the day where they can come in person. We do this because we want them to be physically ready.”
How does performing during and training during a pandemic make you feel?
Bell expressed how “it makes [her] sad” that COVID-19 has made it difficult for the FVHS Theatre Program to “do it the way we usually do it.”
“[I]t’s been ok. It’s weird, it’s interesting, I don’t know how to describe it. It’s definitely not like normal, we still get to do the things we usually do,” Bell said. “I mean it’s the thing we love and at the end of the day that’s what matters.”
Simone Carroll, a sophomore on the Edison High School dance team, shared similar sentiments.
“I think it’s much harder than normal, but I also think it’s inspiring that we can create such nice products and performances, even during these times,” Carroll said.
Even though Bell, Carroll and other performing arts students have learned to adapt to performing and training during COVID-19, there’s no denying that it’s still a frustrating time.
“Limited would be a good word to describe how I’m feeling in dance. It’s very freeing to move around in a dance space, using as much space as possible and it’s a feeling that I miss a lot,” said Jennifer Loverme, a dance major at APA and senior at Marina High School.
Likewise, Fountain Valley High School Vocal Music Program member junior Allison Terry said the pandemic has made choir rehearsals less engaging.
“I was kinda sad, I like to sing. We did it virtually at first, it was singing on mute, and it was boring I wanted to harmonize with others and work with others,” Terry said. “But once I started doing hybrid it was fun, but it was also stressful.”
What is your connection with your peer and teachers right now?
With most interactions taking place virtually, many performing arts students are struggling to build strong relationships with their team.
“I would say it’s a little harder to connect with everyone, especially online,” said Carissa Loverme, a sophomore in MHS’ choir. “With my friends, we are able to create more of a bond when working on harmonies and practicing our parts, but overall with being online it’s hard to connect with other people.”
In-person practices are “rare,” Moore said.
“With my teachers, it’s just emails and for my friends every now and then we have an APA get together, but some people are uncomfortable with that, so it’s very rare,” Moore said.
Some students, like FVHS sophomore Raegan Patchek, have had an easier time connecting with their peers. Patchek is the captain of the FVHS junior varsity cheer squad and already knows people on the team.
“I know a lot of the team are returners, and I’m getting to know freshman, even though we only have had one practice a week,” Patchek said.
Natalie Rees, a sophomore in EHS’ orchestra, also has previous relationships with her teacher and peers but not with new members.
“I believe my connection with my teacher is pretty good,” Rees said. “[W]e are amicable. I also have a pretty good relationship with those who were in orchestra last year, however, I do not have in-person classes with the new students, so I’m not close and haven’t truly been able to get to know them.”
Are you preparing for any upcoming performances?
Many performing arts programs have turned to airing their performances virtually.
“We are currently working on editing files from files of the ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime’ and the process of editing is not something that I’m familiar with, so we’re all going through this learning process to make it happen,” FVHS theater teacher Robert Zick said.
Zick also shared some of the challenges the FVHS Theatre Program has experienced.
“We have an idea of how you want it to go, but then you go ah! It’s there, but you can’t get it to do the thing that you want it to do so we go back and forth to figure out ways to manipulate something,” Zick said.
APA programs have to perform virtually as well. Every year, APA’s dance department hosts Fusion, a performance that showcases dancers, but this year’s Fusion will be aired online.
“Fusion is coming up, [two] or [three] weeks after winter break and I think that the process is a little bit stunted, it wasn’t put on pause, but it was more like we were taking things at a slower pace,” Jennifer Loverme said. “I guess that can be good in some ways, but mostly it felt like, we weren’t prepared to move fast enough”.
Jennifer Loverme believes that preparing for Fusion to be filmed online is “a lot more different” than performing in-person.
FVHS orchestra teacher Maxwell Lowe will also be recording performances.
“We have a winter concert that we are recording this week at our rehearsal,” Lowe said. “Very different from what we’re used to, being outside and distanced and with a smaller than normal group, but it’s something.”
Are you in any other extracurriculars or time-consuming things that add on to your specific performing art?
FVHS senior and choir member Joseph Teng said he’s been able to find a balance between performing arts and other commitments in his life.
“I have two AP classes and I have volleyball. I think it’s balancing out pretty well,” Teng said. “I have work, and sometimes it interferes with my choir schedule, but other than that I’m doing well.”
William Van Leeuwen, a sophomore at HBHS and member of APA’s orchestra, also hasn’t had much difficulty juggling his extracurriculars and classes.
“I’m in APA orchestra, AP computer science, I’m in cross country and track. It doesn’t interfere, but right as I finish APA, it’s right when running starts. Luckily where I live, is close to where we run, so I’m just three minutes late,” Leeuwen said.
Other students, such as HBHS sophomore Emily Crabb, have had a little more difficulty with managing their commitments.
“I am taking three dance classes right now for ballet. I’m definitely pretty stressed I’ve always been OK at managing my time and this year is actually really hard, and I’m really struggling actually with my workload because I have a lot of it,” said Crabb, who majors in musical theater at APA.
It’s also Crabb’s first year taking an AP class while involved in APA; she finds this year to be harder and more stressful than her freshman year.
Despite the limitations and challenges performing arts programs have faced due to COVID-19, students and teachers are continually adapting to these new circumstances and are thinking outside the box to provide ways for them to learn, grow and perform safely.