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Denver music teacher gets creative with online classes

Without instruments, educators in the arts who must take their classes online are tasked with figuring out how to teach in a completely different way.

DENVER — When Luke Wachter found out that he would be teaching his music class online for the first quarter of school, his first reaction was relief that there was finally a plan.

“And then the second reaction was like…okay, I got to figure out what I’m going to do.”

Wachter taught as a substitute teacher in the Spring when schools were shut down in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He described the experience as "flying by the seat of his pants," so as he gets ready to start at a new school virtually as a full-time music teacher within the Denver Public Schools district, he has somewhat of an idea about what he is facing.

“There’s layers of challenges,” Wachter told 9NEWS. “Figuring out how I’m going to teach my curriculum, figuring out logistically what I’m going to teach and how am I going to make connections with students.”

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Wachter’s school, Oakland Elementary, joins many other institutions that do not have enough instruments to pass around to students who will be learning at home through October.

Even if that was an option, a class of kids playing music live via zoom has its own set of problems, mainly latency issues.

“The long-term thinking that I’m doing right now is that I want to make sure that I’m doing things that are going to be transferable to the classroom if we are able to go back with all of the restrictions in place,” Wachter said.

Those restrictions could include students not being able to sing or share instruments, so Wachter has been talking to other music teachers to get creative.

“I’m focusing more on the music standards that have to do with listening and aesthetic evaluation of music and creating music.”

Part of his curriculum will be composition, where students will use platforms like Soundtrap to make digital songs while learning the intricacies of music through online spaces.

He will get into the emotions of music through Spotify and Youtube, where students will make playlists that represent their lives.

“It’s a really cool opportunity to focus on things that sometimes get lost in the mix of doing performances and learning songs,” Wachter said.

There may also be lessons where students make music using every day items around them, like pots and pans (heads up parents). Wachter promised 9NEWS he would not make the assignments “too annoying”.

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Like most teachers across the country, Wachter has spent his summer preparing for all the possibilities. His most recent challenge is transforming his 600 square foot apartment that he shares with his partner and their cat into a space where he can teach his lessons.

“I’m working harder than I ever have before to make this work, and I think everybody is,” Wachter said.

Music can be an important outlet for everyone, especially during hard times, which is why Wachter said he is committed to providing a class filled with substance for students who need it.

“Art is how we interpret and process our world, our internal world, and the more you know about it, [and] the more you learn about it, the better you’re able to do that,” Wachter told 9NEWS. “I think we’ve all seen the importance of those kinds of things in our lives at this time.”

Luke Wachter’s position within DPS is funded by the non-profit Education Through Music.

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