by Dr. Monica Martinez
At the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), the transition to online instruction has been successful but challenging. The support and effort provided to faculty, staff, and students by UTRGV was swift and reliable. The initial shock from having to transition so quickly to distance learning was stressful for all of us, especially those of us who are accustomed to the one-on-one studio teaching and ensemble settings that we are used to attending in person. As any educator and musician does in the moment, we roll with the punches and stay flexible, patient, and understanding. Not all performances go as planned, and this performance is unlike any we will face again.
Keeping students motivated can be challenging, especially when one’s own motivation comes into question. Finding ways to remain active, engaged, collaborative, and mindful of our education, even at this moment, is still part of the greater journey in our careers. It is not easy, but it is part of our journey nevertheless towards something much larger.
We are fortunate that UTRGV has had distance and online learning tools available as part of other course curricula and that it offered multiple tools to engage students and continue the learning. I took advantage of the online trainings for Blackboard, Zoom, Panopto, Respondus, and took a deep dive into learning about other platforms that could help to enhance my studio such as Flipgrid, SmartMusic, and Adobe Creative Cloud. So many products, so little time to digest it all. It was quite overwhelming, but I took it as a challenge knowing that down the line, we will all benefit from this as technology becomes even more present within the performing arts academic curriculum.I am grateful to have so many tools made available to me and for my students. Many of these platforms realized that there was an immediate need for access, and several provided them to educators and students at no cost. I use Zoom, Flipgrid, and SmartMusic at the core of my online instruction. Zoom is used for weekly lessons and studio class. Recognizing that my students’ at-home technological resources are different, I took what was available and adapted to it. They use Flipgrid and YouTube to submit recorded assignments. Zoom allows me to share my screen, and we are both able to play back video recordings while following along with a PDF of the music on the screen simultaneously. I also use SmartMusic for assessing my students’ fundamental proficiencies such as sight-reading.
The video recorded that was posted of my studio performing was created by one of my students, Jordy Arevalo, who used Adobe Creative Cloud (Adobe Premier) to assemble and edit the performance of Aileron by James Naigus. I knew this would be a challenging project to put together, more so for my student Jordy, but my studio was on board and ready to take on this venture into online collaboration. It was fun and a great learning tool for all of us. Overall, my students have provided positive feedback using these platforms and I plan to continue using them and plan to continue to search for more options for my studio.
The UTRGV Horn Studio is an up-and-coming studio based in South Texas, whose members are committed to achieving excellence as musicians and music educators. All Horn students (music majors, music minors, and non-music majors) from two campuses (Brownsville and Edinburg) study with Dr. Monica Martinez. Aside from their applied lessons, they attend weekly Horn Choir rehearsals and Studio Class sessions focusing on Horn Pedagogy and Performance. The UTRGV School of Music offers a place where these dedicated and talented musicians can collaborate, thrive, and grow. https://www.utrgv.edu/music/index.htm
Beginning Fall 2020, the UTRGV Tuition Advantage grant will launch and cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for qualified students with a family income of $95,000 or less. https://www.utrgv.edu/ucentral/tuition-advantage/