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Banding Together Online

Learning to play an instrument can be a little intimidating. However, going into a distanced learning band class makes it more complicated. The challenges that go along with learning how to read music and getting the right sounds to come out of students’ instruments hasn’t stopped the Christian Brothers music program from thriving and making […]

Learning to play an instrument can be a little intimidating. However, going into a distanced learning band class makes it more complicated. The challenges that go along with learning how to read music and getting the right sounds to come out of students’ instruments hasn’t stopped the Christian Brothers music program from thriving and making beautiful music together. I am a member of CB’s Beginning Band class this year and wanted to know what learning from afar is like for others.

I had heard how much fun the class was from my friends, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was all about. I had always wanted to learn how to play the violin, but never had the time in my schedule until my senior year. When I spoke to Band Director Mr. Travis Maslen about the class, he reassured me that I didn’t need to have any musical background to be a part of the class and that he would teach me everything that I needed to know.

Mr. Maslen has been working hard to ensure all of his students are grasping the material. It’s not easy when everyone in the class is learning to play a different type of instrument. 

“I believe this is an opportunity for students to become great at their instruments independently,” he says. “When you rehearse as an ensemble you become better at putting all the different parts together,” he says. “But now they can focus on music theory and rhythmic accuracy to improve when we play as a group again. Of course we are still learning the mechanics and skills of our instruments.”

Audrey Jeffers (‘21) is a beginning flute player whose first band class was online this year. She still wanted to take the class even snowing that she would be going into a distance learning situation

“My friends were the main influence for me joining,” she says, “ I also want to know how to read music and know how to play an instrument by the end of my senior year. But friends are definitely the best part of the class.”

While students in the class have been progressing at a steady rate, everyone has their challenges with learning their instruments.

“I play the flute and even though the buttons look like they are the hardest part, it’s actually the line-up for the lips,” Audrey says “I had to work on my muscle memory for — two months now? It’s worth it though!”

“I think what students are struggling with the most is not being able to play as a band,” Mr. Maslen says. “While they’re improving individually, it’s always more fun to learn together as a class.”

While students are improving and becoming better, Mr. Maslen is not always able to see every student and give them the same amount of attention as people who frequent office hours. To cope with this, he carefully created a homework plan to help students learn at the same pace.

“I assign work called ‘music of the week’ — this makes students listen to a genre of music they wouldn’t normally listen to and the history behind it. We’re going to break down the music from different eras such as the renaissance, Roman Era, Classical Era.” 

“Mr. Maslen has made it so easy for me,” Audrey says. “Knowing that everything is due the next Monday and gives me enough time and space to get it done. It’s a very generous thing to do, and I really appreciate that. It’s enough time for practice and to understand what you’re actually doing.”

The band classes of all different levels have a campus reputation of being a close, caring and accepting place to learn.

“It’s fun!” Audrey exclaimed. “We mess around with our instruments, we exchange jokes with one another, and it’s a real bonding experience. I wish I had joined the band program sooner.”

I had trepidation when I first signed up for Beginning Band. I had never played an instrument before, so I had no idea what to expect especially going into an online learning environment. Personally, band is one of my favorite classes. Whether we are in person or online, Mr. Maslen always has a cheery personality that makes me smile. His jokes and informative teaching style are what makes his student fall in love with the band program.

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