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BWW Blog: A Day in the Life of a Current MT Student (or the Chilling Effects of COVID-19 on BFA Programs)

I thought it might be beneficial to share said pros and cons, and hopefully, spark up a discussion about how to make this online BFA worthwhile. 

Per the lengthy title, I'm sure if you're reading this that you've already buckled in for quite the wild ride. I think it's needless to say at this point that the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a major hinderance to the arts. As a student pursuing an arts degree, it's been difficult to compromise my education for safety reasons while still making the most of it. I've been trying to take time to reflect on what this school year has been like so far in order to appreciate the pros, acknowledge the cons, and overall, remain optimistic in the pursuit of my undergraduate education. I thought it might be beneficial to share said pros and cons, and hopefully, spark up a discussion about how to make this online BFA worthwhile.

My Musical Theatre classes go a little something like this:

  • Modern - completely online via Zoom every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

  • Voice Lesson - online via Zoom every Wednesday

  • Acting - in person every other class (we have two small groups that alternate between Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes), formerly met outside before it got chilly!

  • Audition Tech - sometimes in person for mock auditions and sometimes via Zoom for lectures/discussions each Tuesday and Thursday

  • Jazz - in person every other class (we have been divided into smaller groups based on levels, and we alternate between Tuesday and Thursday classes), while masked and social distanced, occasionally outside

  • Ballet - in person every Tuesday and Thursday while masked and social distanced, occasionally outside

BWW Blog: A Day in the Life of a Current MT Student (or the Chilling Effects of COVID-19 on BFA Programs)
My ballet class taught outside
by Qi Jiang on one of UC's tracks.

Compared to the beginning of quarantine when all classes were completely online, I find the hybrid model has a nice balance. I'm not sitting, staring at my computer screen all day (though, there are certainly days when I am all online and staring at a screen for a few hours), and I'm also not putting myself and others at risk all day. I'm quite paranoid about COVID-19 myself, so being in rooms full of people is not entirely pleasant right now (though, don't get me wrong! I'm thrilled at every chance I get to be in a studio!). It's also interesting the effect that it has had on my learning. I've noticed that I feel significantly less self-conscious during dance classes, but more so during my voice lessons. The inevitable lack of focus that I feel when taking Zoom classes has made me so much more attentive during the in-person classes that I have. Like I said earlier: pros and cons. Would I like to not be online at all? Of course! Would I prefer this hybrid model over no classes at all? Yes-that's why I'm here.

For the past few weeks in Acting, we've had the assignment to read a chapter of Anne Bogart's book A Director Prepares and respond to it. Typically, our teacher Richard Hess will have us respond to a quote from the book and instruct us to do a 15-minute free write in response. This last chapter that we read was about "Resistance" and how we as people/actors grow in opposition to it. As unconventional as this may be for a blog, I'm going to share my response. I think it sums up how I feel about this year very well-my feelings about the triumphs and pitfalls of it all, and how I came to decide to return to Cincinnati this year:

"Your attitude toward resistance determines the success of your work and your future." - Anne Bogart

Reading this chapter, I couldn't help but relate it to the situation we find ourselves in currently. I imagine that you are probably going to receive lots of responses about this. Perhaps not, or perhaps I'll be the first. Anyways, we find ourselves in an incredibly unconventional time as musical theatre artists. There is no musical theatre industry right now, really. In fact, when the seniors graduate, they'll be graduating to probably no job opportunities. I hope by then the TV/film industry starts picking up more, but I can't imagine that musical theatre will be back, at least not in the traditional sense. With all that said, before we came back for this school year all of the MT students were given a choice. We were told that we could take a gap year and join the class below in hopes that by next school year things will return to normal, or we could elect to take classes completely online, or we could choose to come to Cincinnati and buckle in for the interesting ride that this year would be. I chose the latter, but not without hesitation. The idea of coming back to Cincinnati to be in hot, sweaty dance classes with a bunch of people during a global pandemic just did not sound appetizing. Also, leaving the comfort of my family and home was a struggle. Why leave when they can take care of me and I know I'll be safe? But I left, and for good reason. I couldn't fathom what a year of doing nothing would be like, and that terrified me. I say "doing nothing" because if I stayed at home, then that's exactly what I would've been doing. I consider myself a busy bee--I thrive under heavy workloads (though I might complain about having so much work, I secretly love it). So, here I am! Back at CCM despite my COVID-19 paranoia and the fact that classes are half online, that I can't hang out with all of my friends, and that I won't get to do any big CCM shows. I came into this year completely pessimistic... I kept on reminding myself though, "You're only going to get out of this what you put in," and I must say, I feel like I've grown more as a performer in the past few months than in my entire last two years here. I'm not sure why. This chapter, though, may have enlightened me a little. Perhaps it was because I was willing to rise to the challenge and that I continue to challenge myself in these circumstances every day. Like I said, I'm not sure why it is, but this chapter may hold the answer. Even if it doesn't, reading this made me feel assured that I am not wasting my time. Any residual doubt that I had about coming back felt like it washed away. What is the point of living if you refuse to confront any obstacles? I've never loved confrontation, but I've been becoming more accustomed to it recently, and I am glad that this chapter reignited that fire within me. I am doing the right thing, and that is always good to hear.

And with that note of optimism, I'll leave you. Actually, I'll leave you with this video of my jazz class! The other week, we came together and met outside to perform this 80s-themed combo choreographed by our very own Katie Johannigman. The optimism embodied in this video speaks wonders! I hope you enjoy. :)

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From This Author Student Blogger: Cassie Maurer