Pandemic Deals Blow to Music Department


An anomaly in music department data starting from last school year will have a lasting impact up to a decade for the music departments in the West Potomac High School pyramid. One of the effects of distance learning is the shrinking of the music departments in Springbank at West Po, and across middle school and elementary schools.

This school year, Mrs. Day Javkhlan, orchestra director at West Potomac High School, has reported a 53% decrease in the number of students enrolling in orchestra, despite the number being very stable in prior years. According to teachers at West Potomac and Carl Sandburg Middle School, band and chorus have lost students as well. Therefore, the number of students has decreased at each grade level. An outlier is guitar, which actually had an increase in students.

Distance learning was more difficult for music students, as students were not able to hear each other playing, which meant they were not able to hear if they were playing together, and did not know how certain parts of the music were supposed to sound. The pandemic led to the cancellation of all field trips and most concerts. One student who wished to remain anonymous told The Wire the music classes were not as engaging in distance learning as they are in person, which led to him quitting. 

Most music students in the West Potomac pyramid join band, chorus, or orchestra in 4th grade, so the contraction of the music department will last for 9 years, until that 4th grade class has graduated. The 4th graders, never having played an instrument before, were the most impacted by the learning format. 

“It [teaching beginners online] was the most difficult thing I have done in my career. I usually have to do a lot of hands-on adjusting to make sure students are successful and set up correctly,” Mrs. Day Javkhlan explained. “It’s not like I could reach through the screen to fix it immediately. This resulted in less mastery this year, which I think will result in less kids continuing because they feel unsuccessful.”

Teachers at both West Potomac and Carl Sandburg have also mentioned that students moving away from the area has been a factor in the decrease of the music department. 

For nearly the next decade, the music program at West Potomac will have fewer players than in previous years, according to Mrs. Day.