April 24, 2020

An Interview with Eric Lifland, The Magic Behind LACC’s Online Learning Initiative

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Eric Lifland means a lot of things to LACC. He’s currently serving as the Interim Apprentice Choir Director and has been the Assistant Young Men’s Ensemble Conductor for two years. He’s also an LACC alum who sang in the inaugural Young Men’s Ensemble.

When local and state governments began issuing stay-at-home orders in March, Eric‘s technological savvy was fundamental in helping to move LACC’s musicianship classes online. The move aimed to ensure choristers would still have music in their lives in a way that was fun and engaging. Read about how LACC got the program started and how it’s doing so far below.

Why was it important to move learning online?

Even though we can’t sing together in an online environment, choristers can still develop technical skills, deepen their understanding of repertoire, and, most importantly, experience the joy of music.

What platform did you choose and why?

We use Seesaw for asynchronous activities and Zoom for live check-ins. Seesaw allows conductors and musicianship teachers to engage in dialogues with choristers on an individual level. We can share anything with students—accompaniment tracks, performance videos, pronunciation guides, to name just a few. Then through the Seesaw interface, choristers can easily upload written responses, video or audio of themselves singing, scans of completed homework, and more.

What was a challenge in moving in-person learning to the digital world?

Creating engaging online activities requires both enormous pedagogical creativity and a high level of tech-savvy. We all have had to both reinvent how we teach and learn a host of new tech skills. But the team has really stepped up to not only make this happen, but to do so quickly.

How did you address that challenge?

The whole staff has been collaborating with each other more than ever, sharing online teaching ideas and finding technical solutions.

How has the program worked out so far?

It has been a great success. So many choristers have been uploading brilliant responses to our activities and expressing how happy they are to still have LACC in their lives.

The young choirs, especially, have been engaged with the activities and they’re just having fun with it.

The goal of the program was less about burdening the students with work, but more about providing an opportunity for musical enjoyment—to bring singing back into their lives even though we can’t be together.

Are students engaging with the program?

One thing choristers have been doing is recording themselves singing canons with themselves. They record one version, then another singing the second and third parts over the previous recordings.

Some choristers have also played a piano accompaniment in the background and sing over that—then they can get direct feedback from conductors on their singing.

What went easier than you thought it would?

Choristers, for the most part, have done really well with the technology. We weren’t quite sure how much a new platform would challenge younger choristers, but most have seemed to acclimate to it pretty easily.

They’ve been able to do sophisticated things, like the canon singing for example.