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The performing arts, without any performances

The cancellation of in-person classes and events brings uncertainty for performing arts programs at the University of Minnesota.
Flyers for events canceled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic are seen outside the Rarig Center on Saturday, March 21, 2020.
Image by Parker Johnson
Flyers for events canceled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic are seen outside the Rarig Center on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

As the University of Minnesota makes its transition to online instruction, certain students and faculty within the performing arts have found it difficult to adjust.

For those pursuing majors in music, theater and dance, the news of the indefinite suspension of in-person meetings raised many concerns. With courses and curriculums structured around things like rehearsals, student showcases and ensemble work, it remains unclear to many how these programs are expected to continue through a new, novel system of emails and Zoom calls. 

Freshman flute performance major Isaac Olson stressed the issues that music students face with virtual teaching. He described how face-to-face lessons are necessary for correcting things like posture and technique as well as the challenges that come from practicing mandatory ear training through a laptop. 

“Being a music student, it’s hard to get the proper instruction through online courses,” Olson said. 

David Carrillo Siliezar, an international master’s music student from Costa Rica, said the classes he is taking and the meetings with ensembles he is conducting have come to a complete halt. 

“For me, the online transition is pretty much a complete shutdown of my schedule,” said Carrillo Siliezar. “It’s not only not easy, it’s impossible. We’re basically telling the students, ‘We know it sucks, but we’re going to basically let you off the hook.’” 

While many performance-based classes have already resumed digitally, there are some students who remain in the dark. Second-year theater arts student Agatha Pokrzywinski has yet to receive word on how her intimacy directing B.A. theater masterclass will look online. 

A similar concern was voiced by sophomore music and theatre double major Rachel Tennier.

“There’s a lot of confusion. Some of my professors have been really great about transferring right away and figuring it out together, but some have been really unclear,” Tennier said.

For some performing arts students, however, the digital classroom is not their greatest worry.

“I think in the early stages, there was lots of panic from me and from a lot of people in the department,” said senior B.A. theater major Emily Rosenberg. “It impacted me in quite a few ways as the performances for the rest of the semester got canceled.”

At this point, all scheduled performances and showcases for University students have been called off or postponed indefinitely. 

For seniors, this is a serious development. Seniors in performing arts departments are often expected to participate in final capstone performances or recitals that make up large portions of their final grades.

“It was supposed to be a culmination of everyone’s work over the last four years,” Rosenberg said.

Students who are employed within their department will also miss out on numerous work opportunities due to the performance cancellations. 

Tennier worked in a paid position in the sound shop within the theater department. She says that although she doesn’t get credit for the work, she is missing out on hands-on learning and professional experience.

As the University enters its second week of online classes, it is unclear what the future will hold for those pursuing performance-based studies.

“The professors are doing the best they can, but we’re really losing the second half of this semester,” Tennier said.

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