Winter typically brings a flurry of excitement around campus, especially for students involved in Norfolk Academy's variety of fine arts offerings.
Musicians in all three divisions show off their talents in Johnson Theater just before Holiday Break, wowing audiences with choral, band, and orchestra performances. A few weeks later, Elbert Watson's Dance Team takes to the stage for its concert. Last but certainly not least, drama students put on several performances of their Winter Musical, each of which draws a large crowd.
Unfortunately, such performances are not possible this year because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Studies suggest some musical endeavors - notably singing - can be spreaders of the virus. And state guidelines prevent gatherings of more than a few people. Academy is limiting visitors on campus as a safety measure.
For everyone's safety, students and teachers are wearing masks and observing social distances this year. And while that creates hurdles for the fine arts, teacher-coaches are instead using this experience as an opportunity to experiment.
Since November, drama students have been working toward a recorded audio performance of the classic film It's A Wonderful Life, which should be complete later in the winter. Drama teacher Caroline Bisi is leading the group, with help from Mr. Ron Newman and Sean Dugan '92, who has professional acting experience. Rob Fleenor, Director of Audio Visual Services, is helping with recording.
Students wear masks and are situated several feet apart during practices. They stand close to microphones, with Mr. Fleenor monitoring the sound quality. And as with Winter Musicals, students are helping behind the scenes with the production, making sure it runs smoothly.
Also in November, Mr. Watson began teaching his Dance Team. As with their drama counterparts, the team is following social distancing and mask protocols. Students practice daily, with the goal of performing a video-recorded show later in the season.
Lower School musicians have already put on some performances of their own. These performances were individually recorded and ran the gamut from piano recitals to violin solos. They can be seen on the Norfolk Academy YouTube Channel.
These Lower School performances provided holiday cheer for the outside community. Abby Fernandez '22 compiled the videos, along with some provided by Music, Band, and Orchestra teacher Kelby Schnepel, into several iMovies, which she shared with Westminster-Canterbury for the residents of that retirement and assisted living home in Virginia Beach. Abby did a similar project with Norfolk Academy's virtual Be Someone Concert, which was held shortly after the pandemic began in 2020.
Also of note, the physical education, athletics, and dance departments have been collaborating closely amid the pandemic. Mr. Watson and Lower School Dance Instructor Suzy Gunn '01 have been exposing students to dance and movement during physical education classes. The students, as well as teacher-coaches, recognize how the movement involved in dance can apply to athletics endeavors.
To learn more about Academy's fine arts program, please visit the website.