Summer at Eastman 2020: An Excellent Online Adventure

August 10, 2020

Summer@Eastman Director Sylvie Beaudette and her French Lyric Diction students

Summer@Eastman Director Sylvie Beaudette (top, center) and her French Lyric Diction students [Kayleigh DeBrine, Emma Ginzel, Daniela Monzon, Francis Mok, Molly Petrik; Mimi Law is not pictured]. Photo courtesy of Sylvie Beaudette.


by Andrea Schuler, Summer@Eastman Program Coordinator

Nothing about Summer@Eastman 2020 happened the way we expected. We had already spent most of the 2019-20 school year planning for our in-person courses, institutes, and pre-collegiate residential programs when COVID-19 restrictions closed Eastman’s campus in March. By mid-April, it was announced that the campus would remain closed through the summer; we would not be able to bring any students or faculty to campus for an in-person experience. We hated the thought of canceling Summer Session altogether, so we decided that our only option was to pivot quickly and move as many programs as possible online.

We had never run an all-online Summer Session before and had no idea how it would turn out: would faculty be willing to teach online? Would anyone sign up? Could online classes really be engaging and fun? We consulted with faculty, then took a deep breath and dove in: on April 22, registration opened for a full slate of more than 40 all-online courses and workshops.

The response blew us away! 2020 turned out to be our busiest year to date: we received over 500 registrations from students in 43 states and 11 countries. Students and parents told us repeatedly how happy they were that we made online programs available, especially because many other summer programs were forced to cancel this year. Our faculty were also quite positive about the experience: even though class interactions were limited by distance, technology issues, and less-than-optimal audio quality, they felt that they were still able to connect with students and create a sense of community within each group.

We invited faculty and guest presenters to share impressions of their online Summer experience. Here’s what they had to say:

“Ivan Trevino and I were able to make a strong connection with the students in this virtual format and bring a real energy to the classes. I could feel the students’ positive engagement with us and sense that both the material and connection were meaningful for them and us.  It was a fantastic week!”
Michael Burritt, Eastman Online Percussion Festival

“I was very impressed with the diligence and preparedness of my students. [They] made more than the best of the unusual situation, remote learning didn’t hinder any progress and I was very pleased. Bravi tutti!”
Teresa Ringholz, Summer Classical Studies (voice)

“My favorite moments during the week were Donald Hunsberger’s thoughts on his conducting career and the Holst Suite and Erik Behr’s amazing insights about the conductor/player relationship. They both stressed one very important thing in their sessions: be prepared, but make sure you are real, honest, and humble. The best thing you have going for you is who you are–don’t be afraid to share yourself with others.”
Mark Davis Scatterday, Summer Wind Conducting Online Workshop

“We had students from around the world, from Italy to the US to Hong Kong, Zooming through 900 years of music manuscripts over two weeks. For the first time, I taught a mother and son in the same class: the mother was a professor of Art History and the son a graduate student composer from Juilliard.”
Michael Anderson, The Treasury of Music Manuscripts

“The 2020 summer session for the Eastman Cello Institute was certainly not what the faculty predicted: it was better! Our first foray into running a virtual festival surprised us in many ways. One of the most exciting was the ability to include auditors for the first time. Our 15 auditors were a true asset to the learning environment–they were engaged and curious, and added depth to our discussions, as did our 17 participants.”
Cora Swenson Lee, Virtual Summer Cello Workshop

“Instrumental Methods and Techniques was a great success, attracting students from across the United States and from Canada, South America, Europe, and Asia! It was wonderful to interact with students from around the world coming together to develop their understanding of music teaching and learning.”
Chris Azzarra, Instrumental Methods and Techniques

“While working with my student in private lessons through the Summer Classical Studies program, the online format prompted us to explore recording as a tool to learn and improve. With this being a relatively new experience for my student, she found this process to be an excellent way to reflect on her playing and inform her practicing, as well as an effective method of replicating a performance situation.”
Hayley Grainger, Summer Classical Studies (flute instructor)

“One of the wonderful aspects of teaching online is its ability to erase physical distance. This gave us the opportunity to invite Eastman saxophone studio alumni from around the country to share their stories and talk about how their time at Eastman contributed to their careers. This was such a success that we plan to include guest speakers, either virtually or in person, at future in-person editions of the workshop as well!”
Uday Singh, Eastman Saxophone Online Workshop

 “I found the students, this year in particular, very familiar with their instruments and with thorough knowledge of the historical figures in jazz. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of their interest in the music and I look forward to seeing their growth in the future.”
Charles Pillow, Summer Jazz Studies (saxophone instructor)

“I led students through a dozen Indigenous songs along with stories of their origin, purpose and possibilities for adaptation in the classroom or with choral groups. In addition, each composed their own songs, the first adding their own words to a native flute melody and the second totally original in melody, rhythm, and story. Everyone wanted more sessions extended over a longer period of time.” 
Daystar/Rosalie Jones, The Unbroken Circle: Native American Song and Story Online Workshop

“It is certainly a daunting task to learn how to listen actively to an entire symphony, but our students did a standout job. By the end of the workshop, I was thrilled to see some of the most unsure students giving thorough assessments of the symphonies’ themes and the composers’ creativity in developing them. What a change two weeks made!”
Stephen Johnson, How to Listen to a Symphony


Nicki Roman guest speaker, Eastman Saxophone Workshop and her presentation

Nicki Roman DMA ’18 (guest speaker, Eastman Saxophone Workshop) and her presentation. “It was nice getting to jump on and be a small part of the Eastman Saxophone Online Workshop (ESOW). I’ve met countless young and inspiring saxophonists when I used to teach at this program prior to departing from Rochester a few years ago. This session was no different. Go saxophones!”  Photo courtesy of Nicki Roman.


We are very pleased with the way our online adventure turned out, and students told us that they enjoyed it, too. Although most participants would have preferred an in-person experience, in post-class surveys students pointed out several unexpected benefits of our online summer: they were pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to take class with students from all over the world, the quality of instruction, the budget-friendly tuition, and the convenience of learning from the comfort of home. One student quote in particular confirmed that our efforts paid off: “Being ‘virtual’ is not ideal for anyone.  You all were able to make the absolute best out of the circumstances and provide everyone with a very rich opportunity to learn. Thanks for the experience, but also thank you for continuing the workshop in the first place. The willingness and work to move this event online speaks volumes about you and your colleagues at Eastman.”

We hope we can be back on campus for Summer 2021, but if that’s not possible, we are already thinking of ways to continue our online programming. We will do everything we can to bring you an educational, inspiring summer study experience. We hope to see you next summer!