Academic Programs Restructure Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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​William Paterson University students who study with Mike LeDonne created a YouTube clip with each musician’s part recorded separately. Pictured are Spencer Zweifel, organ; Ryan Hernandez, guitar; Joe McCaffrey, drums; Jonny Gittings, trumpet; and William McKee, alto saxophone.

(Photo: William Paterson University)

Regardless of location, students were able to finish the semester, and some administrators noted an actual rise in participation and enthusiasm.

“The students really had a good attitude about the whole thing,” Roach said. “They, and the department, really pulled together.”

“Our students have really shown up—for themselves and each other,” Demsey said. “We had 100 percent attendance during the final weeks of the term.”

While faculty strove to keep students on track as they completed their coursework, senior management at the institutions looked further down the road.

“We need to be prepared for both in-person and remote learning,” Griggs said, regarding classes in the fall. “Once we understand fully what the options are, we can look at establishing policy and protocols.”

In California, the situation has been complicated by the state’s decision to keep its 23 state university campuses closed for the rest of 2020.

“We’re going to have to get a lot more creative,” Roach said, noting that Sacramento State has applied for an exemption for some of its creative arts programs, including jazz ensemble rehearsals. “We’ll need to conform to state health regulations and figure out how students will enter and exit the band room.”

“Our goal right now is to plan for everything,” Demsey said. “That’s all we can do. Otherwise, we just spin ourselves into the ground, worrying about everything.”

Encarnación expressed a common thought: “Whether students are still distance-learning or on campus, the overall well-being of the student body is primary. Students’ physical, mental and emotional health must be [protected], so we can best serve them with an education that is high quality and one they deserve.”

“Despite the challenges, we haven’t lost any of the intimacy that we strive to have with our students and faculty,” Charlap said. “Of course, physically, we’re all in a much different arena right now. Everybody is trying to manage that arena with as much humanity as possible.” DB

This story originally was published in the August 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.

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