Performers struggle to find human connection with virtual contest

Choir+director+Deanna+Schockmann+practices+with+women%27s+choir+members%2C+freshmen+Autum+Walton%2C+Dallas+Steinhoff+and+Mara+Jensen.+Choir+members+must+submit+their+performances+digitally+for+competitions.

Emmaleigh Kowal

Choir director Deanna Schockmann practices with women’s choir members, freshmen Autum Walton, Dallas Steinhoff and Mara Jensen. Choir members must submit their performances digitally for competitions.

   Performance artists will get to compete this year even though these vocal, instrumental and speech contests look much different. Contests in the fine arts category are entirely virtual this year.

   District music contests have been put together into one festival with submissions due between Mar. 8-17. Choir members are having a single-tier contest, meaning the district rating will also count as the state rating. The speech team has had several virtual competitions this year, participating in the virtual district competition as well. 

   By being virtual, more students are wanting to participate and students are able to get multiple takes and submit whichever one they like.  

   “Some students love that they don’t have that pressure of performing in front of a judge. Others will hate it because they come alive and live for that one moment in front of an actual judge. I hope they will get a good experience,” band director Curtis Thomas said. 

   Speech has only been able to submit performances for three contests. They recorded their district performance on Feb. 25. 

  “We haven’t been able to watch other schools perform or to see what our competition  is like. It has been more difficult for our students to feel the excitement of competition because it has been done all within our own classroom,” speech team coach Amanda Helvey said. “Preparation is different because we don’t have to plan to go anywhere. We do have to set time aside to record our speeches in class and that has been different. We have had to play with a few programs to see what works best for recording and how to upload them to the required platform.” 

   Any category that requires a student to be in the same room with another student has been eliminated this year. The only event involving multiple speech members that was kept is Duo Interpretation, but members must simultaneously record their parts in separate rooms. The recording is uploaded with a split screen so both performers can be viewed at the same time. All large group events, such as the one act play and reader’s theater have been canceled for this year.

   “Virtual competitions have been a new experience that I don’t think anyone was prepared for. Each competition is run a little differently, but the one thing they all have in common is there is a lack of human connection. If you have teammates competing, there’s not really a way to support them while they perform, and you don’t get to see who you’re running against. The team atmosphere is out the window, and a lot of people don’t want to do speech this year because it’s not how it always is,” senior speech team captain Kyleigh Hines said. “I’ve gone hard for this club all four years of high school, but this last year has been a challenge to find the will to do it, just because there’s not true recognition for doing well. With districts and state being virtual, it feels as though it’s just another competition, with the fun parts, the human connection specifically, being stripped from us.”

   With many of these fine art events, performers feed off the energy and emotions that their audience is displaying. By doing virtual competitions, much of that connection between the performer and the audience is lost.

   “Live performances are almost always better than recordings. It just doesn’t translate the same way.  Plus, having no audience, you are missing the energy that they lend, which makes it more enjoyable to sing,” vocal director Deanna Schockmann said.

  Students are grateful to be able to perform at all this year amongst all the cancellations.

   “I think most students are upset that it is virtual this year, but at least we get to have it. I think it makes it easier to perform, but it is hard to get through it especially as a senior, because everything has been taken away,” senior Madrigal member Lauren Kreisel said.