Nathan Abreu of Lexington films himself performing on cello.
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Middlesex Community College’s 20-year history of success with online learning helped the college transition the 2020 spring semester’s course work and student services to remote, virtual and limited contact systems efficiently.

Some programs — including Music and Art — require hands-on instruction and practice, and MCC faculty rose to the challenge of developing creative alternatives for students to continue toward their success.

The remaining performances scheduled for the Spring 2020 World of Music Concert Series were canceled because of COVID-19, but the Music Department organized an at-home recital for students to have the opportunity to perform for the MCC community.

Music students — including singers, guitarists, a cellist and the MCC World Drumming Ensemble — filmed performances at their homes and sent in the videos to Orlando Cela, MCC’s assistant professor of Music, who compiled the videos and edited them into a recital that the Music Department shared on YouTube.

“Since we could not present a live recital at the college due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to celebrate the students through this at-home recital,” said Carmen Rodriguez-Peralta, MCC’s chairperson of Music. “The students were very excited about this.”

Em Russell of Lowell films herself singing.

MCC student and vocalist Em Russell faced some challenges during the transition to remote learning for her voice lessons, but the faculty was supportive and guided her through any concerns she had. As Russell said, “They have always treated me with so much respect, and I feel very at home within the department.”

Russell called the rehearsal an interesting process because she recorded herself singing and then sent it to Rodriguez-Peralta to record her accompaniment on the piano. For her final product, Russell sang along to the piano recording as though it were a karaoke track.

“This was actually my first time recording myself for a performance,” she said. “It was exciting to see the finished product. The recitals are always fun and diverse, but this format made it especially unique.”

Nathaniel Abreu, a recent Duel Enrollment graduate, was grateful to continue having practical learning experiences despite the circumstances. He credits his professors for their support and for helping him find performance and learning opportunities, even when remote.

Abreu believes the remote learning experience was similar to in-class instruction and feels he learned a lot. For his at-home performance, he played the cello.

“I filmed a few takes in my living room and ended up choosing the first one, funnily enough,” he said. “It was nice knowing people would hear it in the context of a virtual concert. Playing for a camera as opposed to an audience is definitely a skill to get used to.”

Watch the concert at youtu.be/2YvHQVic_D4 to watch.

MCC’s Facilities and Security departments teamed up to distribute loaner instruments, including keyboards for piano students, and equipment students needed to finish their classes. This was crucial for students who may have relied on the community center or other public locations to practice and could not visit those locations when COVID-19 struck.

The Facilities and Security teams also distributed modeling clay for students in Yary Livan’s ceramics course. Livan is MCC’s Kiln Project coordinator and a Cambodian master ceramist. He offered feedback online to his students and planned to apply heat treatments to the projects at the end of the semester.

“Always seeking to improve, for the fall semester Professor Livan is creating high-quality videos of various techniques to help his students learn better online,” said Matthew Olson, MCC’s dean of Liberal Arts. “Despite being online, we feel that art classes should be as educational and enjoyable as when we are on campus. In fact, this spring we had many student art pieces showcased in an online student show despite being remote.”

The online art show features projects by students in the Studio Art and Graphic Design programs. Pieces include drawings, paintings, sculptures and ceramics, photography and digital images, typography, logos, digital drawings, posters, campaigns, and website and app designs.

To view the art, visit sites.google.com/view/mccstudentartshow/fine-art?authuser=0.