ARMENIA/GERMANY – “It’s so hard to give vocal lessons by Skype. It’s terrible!” Lusine Arakelyan is an opera singer who teaches at the Aleksey Hekimyan Music School in Yerevan. Since the lockdown started in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, she, like most other Armenian teachers, has been forced to expand her pedagogical skills with patience and creativity. She and her students bridge the social distance through the computer, and the challenge is significant.
“I play their exercises and songs on the piano,” she explains, “record them and send these files to my pupils. Then, they sing to the recorded music and send back their recording. I listen to their presentations, try to correct their mistakes, and so it goes on.”
Lusine’s mother is also a teacher, not of music, but Armenian language and literature. She works along similar lines. She calls the group of pupils via Zoom program and presents her lectures. She sends them exercises which they complete and send back for correction. It is all very tiring, Lusine notes, because this kind of interchange requires much more time and energy. But this is the case everywhere, and such online teaching is absolutely necessary to ensure that the pupils keep up with their studies.
In Geghashen, Mariam Kazaryan, who is director of the music school there, confirms this is the case. Not only music, but all subjects offered are being taught online. Teachers assign their students homework, and they write all their exercises in notebooks, which they will hand in as soon as classroom instruction can resume.
In the arts the process is more complicated. Children taking music lessons – dance or instrumental or vocal – perform their assigned tasks, and record themselves, then send their photos or videos back to their teachers, for corrections and comments.
Before the coronavirus pandemic reached Armenia, pupils at the Geghashen school participated in an international art and music festival, winning first, second and third prizes. This year, they have put their works on exhibit — even though it is not yet clear when the public will have the chance to visit and admire their creations.