The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and forced everyone to adapt to the new restrictions, and Ottoson clubs have also adjusted in order to stay safe. But although they have faced many challenges, they have seen some positive changes as well.
To keep everyone safe and healthy, the Art Club, Girls Ensemble and QSA Club have all started meeting over Zoom, which leaves room for technical difficulties and much less social interaction between students. Despite these negative changes, all three clubs have seen an increase in the number of students joining, which gives them room for big plans for the rest of the year.
Art Club is one of the clubs that now meets over Zoom, and they have seen an increased number of members. “It’s more accessible, in a way, for some kids who may not have been able to stay after school or stay late.” said Ms. Ford, the Art Club director. “We have like, sixty members of the Art Club now. We maybe had like, twenty-five [members], but we’ve never had sixty.” Ms. Ford said she also enjoys seeing people’s pets wander into the Zoom meetings, which is not an experience that can be shared in the school building.
Although the artists are forced to meet virtually, Ms. Ford still strives to connect with and assist club members so they express themselves through their artwork. Her hopes are for students to continue their creative flow and to communicate their beliefs, opinions, and messages through their imagination. Ms. Ford told the Insider that “the biggest negative is the loss of the sense of being together and sharing ideas, and materials, and kids collaborating on projects … it’s limited.” Over Zoom it is also difficult to demonstrate different art techniques and really get to know the students.
Another club that has started meeting over Zoom is Bel Suono, the girls singing ensemble led by Ms. Smith. She thinks this is because some people feel more comfortable singing from the privacy of their homes where no one will hear them, so they feel safer taking risks and putting themselves out there.
The teaching part of music is very difficult over Zoom. “Every aspect of Bel Suono has been affected. Zoom teaching music is really very challenging,” said Ms. Smith in a recent interview. According to Smith, Bel Suono has faced an immense amount of technical difficulties. “The whole premise of choral singing is that we all sing together… The only time people sing together now is if one of them is pre-recorded.” Singing is all about listening, to others and to the music, so that facet of learning has been lost. Ms. Smith is concerned about the students ability to blend with other singers so they can create harmonies with others, which is very difficult to do over Zoom and may cause students to regress.
Still, there are certain aspects of Bel Suono that are better over Zoom. Shy singers can sing in the peace and seclusion of their homes, and they can work on their note reading, as well as their melodic and rhythmic accuracy.
Through all of these challenges, Ms. Smith has found support and hope in the singers. “I suppose it’s the students. I suppose what’s gotten me through the hard times is then, like, the energy that I’ve gotten from students… it raises my spirits and makes me feel better about what I’m doing […] It’s the mini wins, the mini victories that are getting me through the hard times […] I can’t imagine this period [of time] if kids didn’t have the opportunity to sing, and I didn’t have the opportunity to teach music.”
Ms. Smith has many aspirations for the future of Bel Suono, and all the musicians at Ottoson.“My biggest hope is that kids will not give up […]. I know this time is really hard for students and I just think about, […] like, you have your whole lives to do this [music], but what’s kind of broken my heart through this whole process is I know that if kids give it up […] it’s hard to return to [music], and that’s where my heart bleeds […]. I want kids to try to hang on because the end is in sight and we will come back at some point […]. Keep the end in sight, keep that hope, that light.”
The QSA club has also changed quite a bit during the switch to Zoom meetings, in both positive and negative ways. In previous years there was difficulty catching up after a missed meeting, but now the QSA club has a Google Classroom where meeting information can be found. “It’s been one of the benefits: you can see the announcements or what YouTube clips we watched…” Said Ms. Siegel, one of the QSA club leaders.
But along with the positives of the club being virtual, there are also many negatives about the Zoom meetings. “There’s all this, like, social time that would have happened before and after the club, like people walking to QSA, or walking home from QSA, or standing around outside waiting to be picked up and that stuff … [that] doesn’t happen [now],” Ms. Siegel said, commenting on the lack of social interaction. Ms. Siegel is very grateful that the QSA club can meet at all, even if it is over Zoom, and she always looks forward to the time she spends with the club members. She hopes that the club can “continue to do any initiatives the students want to do,” and that there will be more people interested in the club who join and share their ideas.
Ottoson clubs have changed immensely since quarantine started, in both positive and negative ways. Zoom has made club meetings more convenient and comfortable and there have been more students joining the clubs, but teaching has become much more difficult and there is less interaction between the members. But through all the adversity, OMS club leaders haven’t lost their aspirations for the rest of the year and continue to strive for the best.
If you’re interested in joining any of these clubs contact: