When Broward College announced the transition to a remote learning environment in March 2020, as part of the measures taken across the country to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it changed the way classes were offered. Seven months later, most educational institutions continue to work and teach remotely. Throughout this time, we’ve faced many challenges as a society as we adapted to a “new normal” and, for Arts programs across the nation, the transition has welcomed unforeseen innovation.

At Broward College, the Visual and Performing Arts programs proved that resilience is a part of their craft. Like other students, they had to learn remotely, but they refused to let the change deter them from their dreams. The outstanding faculty rose to the challenge of continuing to support and preparing their students despite the circumstances.

Embracing Innovation

A significant part of the education for students in the College’s Visual and Performing Arts program is participating in student productions and performances. Mariah Reed, professor of the theater program with over 35 years of experience in the acting industry, played an important role in encouraging her students and assembling a musical produced remotely. “Back in March, when we were told to go remote, I had a feeling it would take longer to get back to campus than what we initially expected,” Reed says. “I decided to write a ZOOM play, in which students could still practice their acting skills and not fall behind.”

Students were required to do rehearsals for the play entirely online, then self-record at home. Since the play was a musical, there were some challenges with the musical numbers. “We had to use some apps to coordinate the music and the students singing because we were all on our own. It was challenging, but our students are so talented that they made it all work,” continues Reed.

Despite the technological challenges, and the need to learn many technical aspects, including lighting and filming, Reed says her students thrived during remote learning. “Honestly, we’re busier than ever, but it’s been an exciting journey, and while we are back on campus now, following social distancing measures, I can see how much the students are enjoying themselves.”

Returning to Campus

Terence Kirchgessner, an adjunct instructor in the music program, agrees that remote learning was challenging but provided an opportunity for innovation. “Current times are indeed very challenging at many levels in the art industry as a whole,” he says. “For students in the arts, it has been particularly difficult since they thrive in the face-to-face classroom environment due to the nature of their studies and how much they need to practice.” During the 2020 spring term, the music department canceled the last performance of the semester due to COVID-19. However, they continued with remote learning through Zoom.

Music students at Broward College have been allowed back to campus since the fall semester began in August and are now practicing inside the gymnasium to comply with social distancing guidelines. “We’re grateful because the College has been very supportive and understanding of the needs of the students, and our students are relieved to be back and practicing together,” says Kirchgessner. In a pre-COVID world, the music program’s orchestra would be comprised of around 75 musicians. Now, rehearsals are divided into two ensembles: the strings and woodwinds sections of the orchestra and the other of the brass and percussion sections.

“While the arts has taken a strong hit due to the pandemic, things are slowly but surely going back to normal,” says Reed. “We encourage everyone, especially those young people who may be deterred from pursuing a career in the arts due to current circumstances, not to let these times stop them from pursuing their dreams and sharing their talent with the world,” adds Kirchgessner.

Are you interested in the visual and performing arts? Broward College is offering in-person classes for students in these areas. Take the first step towards the spotlight. Explore the career opportunities available in the Arts, Humanities, Communication, and Design pathway at Broward College. 

ABOUT BROWARD COLLEGE:

Serving more than 63,000 students annually, Broward College provides residents with certificate programs, two-year university-transfer degrees, two-year career degrees and baccalaureate degrees in selected programs. The mission of the college is to provide high-quality educational programs and services that are affordable and accessible to a diverse community of learners. For more information, visit www.broward.edu

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