November 24, 2020
Instruments are meant to be played to create a symphony of sound. Learning that schools were going fully remote in March, Krystle and Kyle Smith, Middle School and High School band teachers for Westbrook, had to figure out how to make a virtual curriculum for their students.
The husband and wife team both developed a love for music in grade school. Krystles’ inspiration was George Shabo who teaches music at Loranger School in Old Orchard. Kyle is described by Krystle as a “natural musician,” so it came as no surprise that after joining band in highschool Kyle wanted to continue through college and beyond.
Playing in front of a computer has been an entirely new experience for musicians, and technology that supports large groups of musicians is extremely costly. The Smiths joined some groups where they could connect with band instructors nationally. Because of this, they were able to network and figure out how to establish and teach a virtual band. Through their networking they found a program, Flipgrid, which has helped to facilitate teaching and practicing with their bands.
“The students have adapted, but it hasn’t come without challenges,” said Krystle. “Navigating how to motivate students to keep showing up and practicing when they feel they have no performance to work towards or prepare for has been draining. But there’s been a lot of good that has come out of this year too.”
Kyle shared, “Independent work has been a challenge since students are so accustomed to playing together. Despite the challenges, there have been some positive things happening too. The smaller groups and virtual check-ins have allowed us to connect with our students on an individual level. With a normal environment of 50-100 students in your band, connecting on an individual basis with your students likely wouldn’t happen.”
The optimism has continued for their band programs as Wreaths Across America contacted the schools band program and requested students recorded work for a 20 minute montage. “The students are so excited and inspired to be able to provide music for this special event.”
The Smiths are both hopeful that they still have band programs when “normal” resurfaces.
Thank you Kyle & Krystle, for being the #HeartAndSoulOfTheCommunity! For more Heart & Soul stories, visit sbsavings.bank/heart-and-soul