“If there’s anything that I have learned in my many years on this planet, it’s that people matter the most. And my hope is that if you’re looking to stay connected to other people, and to music, and to have a little joy in your life—if you want to come make music with us, feel free. That would be wonderful!”—Amanda Schlegel, Director of the Congaree New Horizons Program in Columbia, SC.
The New Horizons Music Program provides entry points to music making for adults, including those with no musical experience at all and also those who were active in school music programs but have been inactive for a long period. While K-12 schools and universities have taken to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, adults and senior citizens who are also under stay-at-home mandates are finding meaningful opportunities to engage in remote rehearsals through Amanda Schlegel’s Congaree New Horizons Program based in Columbia, South Carolina.
These silent rehearsals are held weekly and are conducted using Zoom web conferencing and SmartMusic. That’s right—silent rehearsals. By now, all music teachers can attest to the reality that online ensemble rehearsals make it nearly impossible for players to hear each other. In essence, these virtual rehearsals are supervised group practice. Each player in attendance is muted, so they are only able to hear their own performance, plus the teacher. Members rely on the SmartMusic accompaniment tracks to hear all parts of the piece the group is working on. One benefit of this setup is that musicians are forced to rely on their own ears and musical intuitions as they relate to accuracy in their playing. Additionally, because players can only hear their own practice, each member can customize the tempo at which they are rehearsing, allowing them to personalize their learning and remain in a social setting.
Because members of other New Horizons programs were faced with the possibility of having no opportunities to play and interact with each other, Amanda invited members of other New Horizons band programs to join the Congaree New Horizons members in these online silent rehearsals. Currently, the members from two other New Horizons band programs—Central Savannah River Area New Horizons Band from Aiken, South Carolina, and the Tucson New Horizons Band from Tucson, Arizona—gather online for concert and jazz band rehearsals on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Though they can’t hear each other play, members report a surprisingly fun and joyful experience from participating.
To learn more about how to attend these silent online rehearsals, visit the Congaree New Horizons Band Facebook page or email Amanda Schlegel at [email protected], and watch the video below where Amanda demonstrates how rehearsals are conducted.