Friday, January 22, 2021

CoSA and COVID: Home Studios, “Songs for a New World,” and Zoom Musicians

Coronado School of the Arts (CoSA) boasts six conservatories, which include theater production design and management, classical and contemporary dance, digital arts, instrumental music, musical theater and drama, and visual arts. Performing artists and musicians have been hit hard by the pandemic, and students have been hit even harder by distance learning. However, despite all odds, the innovative staff has discovered and applied new ways of teaching during these unprecedented times. 

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Ms. Karrie Jackson is the CoSA Visual Arts instructor. Visual arts is normally comprised of a working studio where creative minds have an opportunity to participate in guided workshops and personalized coaching. The goal of these courses is to enhance students’ individualized body of artwork in order to prepare for an impressive portfolio for college applications or AP Studio Art. Visual arts includes subjects such as design dynamics, portfolio studio, art business, and life drawing. 

For now, students are producing ideas and art at home. Each artist has set up a “home studio” space in which to work everyday. Easels, drop cloths, and individualized material sets were provided from the high school. This class also created an online art community forum at where students post their masterpieces and share comments with each other throughout the creative process. For Ms. Jackson, this is an efficient way to provide feedback and encouragement to her students.

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Art by Ava Laski

For these CoSA students, art is a way to relieve stress and worries. With many overwhelmed with Zoom classes, these sessions are like a breath of fresh air and a welcome distraction from academics. Ms. Jackson aims to limit technology overload and keep artists working in their “home studios.” Another limitation of distance learning is the absence of live models. Normally, the San Diego Artist Guild would provide live models from which students could create art. Now, they have practiced observational drawing skills using other objects such as interior architecture, spaces, and still life, which can all be found at home.

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Ms. Jackson shared, “It has been challenging to coach students in developing their portfolios from a distance, and equally challenging to help them pace their production to meet long-term deadlines. The artists are doing a wonderful job, and are really getting the actual experience of what it takes to be a working solo artist. They are gaining great skills in self-sufficiency, intuition, and decision making. I am proud of their efforts, accomplishments, and most of all their persevering attitudes.”

Art by Isabella Anderson

Ms. Anna Woerman teaches a wide range of courses, including CoSA Digital Media Foundations, Yearbook, CoSA Film, CoSA Graphic Design, CoSA DigArts in New Media 1, and CoSA DigArts Design in New Media 3. Digital media and arts often require specific software applications or equipment to create and design, but distance learning has brought challenges. Ms. Woerman ensures that all lessons have equitable access for all students, regardless of the computer they are using. Students are currently using free software programs and focus on design principles while being creative with what these free programs can offer. 

“I am really proud of how students are putting in effort in technique and creativity, despite all of the external things happening in the world. I think little things are the important things right now: ‘seeing’ their face on Zoom, explaining a technique by showing and sharing my screen, seeing others’ work and giving feedback, and smaller break out rooms to answer individual questions,” Ms. Woerman shared. 

Right now, students are hosting virtual art shows, films, and festivals to showcase their work. Ms. Woerman hopes that through lectures, demonstrations, and smaller practice files, students will be able to practice and connect through peer critiques, presentations, and Zoom meetings. 

Ms. Barbara Wolf teaches CoSA Musical Theater. Students are currently filming a distance learning version of Songs for a New World, a musical revue. Performers began rehearsing in mid-September through Zoom, and the show starts streaming on November 12. Ms. Wolf admits that rehearsing a musical is extremely difficult since cast members are unable to sing in sync or practice harmonies unanimously. However, she is fortunate to have a talented editor, Sam Sprague, who filmed students one at a time and layered their voices on top of the instrumental music track. 

“We got to hear how the cast sounds together for the first time last week. They sound amazing!” Ms. Wolf declared. 

Chloe Schutt is a member of CoSA Musical Theater. She has personally been affected by the inability to perform as a group and collaborate with peers to enhance their acting skills.

“As you know, theater is a very interactive art; you have to be there to truly experience it. It’s been hard to get the magic over Zoom,” she explained. 

Mr. Matt Heinecke chairs the CoSA Instrumental Music department as well as teaches band and AP music theory at CHS. An instructor at Coronado Middle School and Village Elementary, he is well known across the district for his talent and passion. He admits that musicians and performing artists have been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Coordinating and performing online through Zoom is extremely difficult for musicians, who rely on timing and harmony to perfect their pieces. Zoom only allows one student to perform at a time, so classes are submitting individual videos for projects now. 

Mr. Heinecke explained, “For me, not being able to teach music face to face has created a tremendous void, but I am hopeful that we will be back on campus soon. I miss hearing and seeing the students work together and interact with one another. There is no way to replicate the magic of a wonderful ensemble in a virtual environment, but that’s the situation we are in and we will keep powering through until it’s safe to return!”

Mr. Heinecke hopes to see his students in-person before winter break. If that happens, he plans to livestream or film a concert to be shared with families and the community. 

There are endless possibilities to the future of the arts and in-person learning, but for now CoSA students and staff have stepped out of their comfort zones to continue exploring where the sky’s the limit. Through the tireless efforts, innovative creativity, and positive attitudes of the teachers, performers, musicians, and artists have been given unique opportunities to develop their talents and passions.

Coronado School of the Arts
650 D Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118

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Bella Villarin
Bella Villarin
Bella is a proud military brat who has been a resident of Coronado since 2015. She was born in Japan and after a short stay in Virginia, traveled extensively throughout Asia while living in Singapore and picking up another language. A freshman at Coronado High School, Bella can be found at the driving range or golf course when not in school, studying, writing, playing the guitar, or spending time with her family. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: