Fine arts programs resuming pre-pandemic learning


Olivia Cooper

Coppell High School Band practices choreography in the parking lot behind Buddy Echols Field during its after school rehearsal on Aug. 26. Coppell Band and other fine arts is adjusting to in-person learning after a year of Zoom practice sessions. Photo by Olivia Cooper

Joanne Kim, Podcast Producer

With the option of virtual instruction during the 2020-21 school year, the majority of students at Coppell High School opted to learn from the safety of home. Though this impacted all programs and courses, one department in particular had to be rethought entirely: fine arts. 

“I don’t think there’s ever been a moment like this where our programs have been so drastically changed,” CHS art teacher Michelle Hauske said. “We had to completely rethink the way we teach, and students were forced to adapt, especially without the proper art supplies.”

Teaching fine arts students requires attention to details, such as minute body positions, breathing, taking visual cues and fine motor control, which were taught over Zoom. Though classes are back on campus, elements of these programs have inevitably changed due to the previous online learning environment.

“The way we were taught last year has definitely impacted how we’re taught this year,” CHS junior color guard captain Audrey DePew said. “Our coaches had to be a lot more descriptive when teaching over Zoom, so I think that carried through. They tell us more about body placement now, whereas before they would just show us.”

With the return of fully in-person learning, safety measures, such as wearing masks, are emphasized.

“I think everybody had a mutual understanding of what [band this year] should be like, especially after last season,” CHS senior head drum major Wesley Booker said. “Now we’re back as close as we can be to normal. We have masks on inside at all times, and outside we do try and keep our distance, especially with water [breaks]. We’re just trying to spread out whenever we have the chance to.”

Practice times have also been adjusted for band, choir, theater and color guard.

Coppell High School junior Reagann Stolar recites her lines during a read through at the beginning of the “TRAP” theater production practice on Sept. 9. Coppell Theatre and other fine arts are adjusting to in-person learning after a year of Zoom practice sessions. Photo by Olivia Cooper (Olivia Cooper)

Color guard typically practices 11 hours per week with the band, with the majority of those hours outside. However, last year, rehearsals were two to four hours, but were oftentimes cut shorter due to technical difficulties.

“It was frustrating to say the least,” Depew said. “Some students now are having trouble adjusting to the regular practices.”

With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, competitions previously closed have opened, allowing more travel opportunities for band and color guard.

“Last year, we only traveled for UIL on a six-hour drive, and as soon as we were done competing, we came back right away on another six-hour drive,” Booker said. “This year we’re going to a lot more competitions, and we get to stay in hotels, so I’m really pumped for that.”

However, the reason the band is so excited is more than just because it gets to compete again. 

“Band and theater and choir and all of these programs aren’t just about learning to improve your skills,” Booker said “They’re about creating a family. And last year that was taken away from us. But this year we’re back. We get to practice together and listen to each other again, and it’s so much more fulfilling, both physically and emotionally.”

Last year, theater students presented several short films at a drive-in movie theater in lieu of in-person rehearsals. Now, they are finally able to practice together again.

“Before online [learning], I was [at CHS9], so this is my first year at the actual high school theater department,” CHS junior Hiba Mubeen said. “For the first time I get to work with seniors and juniors, and it’s honestly really cool meeting a lot of new people. We get to actually interact with each other and not just talk through boxes on the screen.” 

Hauske has observed a rise in the enrollment of AP art history, AP drawing and IB visual arts I and II.

“There’s an innate need for art,” she said. “When things seem especially dark, that’s when art is needed most. It’s part of our humanity, and I’m so glad we can teach it in person again.”