• Louise Casini Hollis

The Art of Interacting Online

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

Virginia Symphony Orchestra


Words By Louise Casini Hollis. Images courtesy of Virginia Symphony Orchestra.



It may appear that the world has shut down, but the teaching artists of Hampton Roads have taken this opportunity to flourish online with a multitude of opportunities for students to stay connected during the pandemic. In an ongoing series, Spotlight HR is talking to artists and arts organizations around Hampton Roads about their experiences in engaging with students online.


Next year marks Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s 100th season, and Rebekah Geiselman, Education and Community Engagement Manager, and her team have been quite busy. Through their website, they have launched their Music Learning Lab that has programs for students from PreK thru college. Having all of these programs on-line, “had been on the backburner for a while,” Rebekah shared. “Given the current circumstances it kind of brought it to the front and allowed us to get some of these resources available for teachers and for students and families at home.”


Their “Virtual Petting Zoo” designed for Pre K-5 students teaches students about the design, sound and use of orchestral instruments and has companion worksheets aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning. “Technique Tips” uses Virginia Standards of Learning as well, and is geared towards middle and high school students and was devised, “as kind of a supplement for students that are at home who aren’t having that in-person experience with their teachers at school or some of their private lessons” notes Geiselman. Finally, their “Into the Spotlight” series for advanced high school and college students gives advice on how to tackle performance challenges including topics such as performance anxiety and audition preparation. So far, they have featured the violin, viola, French horn, and trombone and they will be adding additional resources soon. “It’s been great to have musicians part of this process – part of the decision making,” Geiselman said.

The Music Learning Lab can be accessed through VSO’s website, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channel. They also host a series of virtual master classes for ODU students via Zoom. “It’s helping us [fulfilling] this extra need,” says Geiselman. “While we may not be able to get musicians physically into every single classroom or into every single room, this creates a way we’re still able to broaden our reach beyond our initial scope… and making sure we are having a deeper impact on the community.”


In addition to these new teaching resources, Virginia Symphony Orchestra has an archival video of their Young People’s concert “Link Up: The Orchestra Sings”, which is part of their partnership program with Carnegie Hall’s Link Up Program. The footage is available for the school students whose concerts were canceled due to school closures. “At the beginning of the year, schools receive staff professional development as well as student and teacher workbooks. Throughout the year classes study and prepare Link Up repertoire through listening, singing, dancing, and playing the recorder,” explained Geiselman. Normally, VSO performs the concert throughout 11 school divisions in Hampton Roads. This year, they were able to perform 12 of their 26 scheduled concerts before schools were closed.


Want to listen to a Virginia Symphony Orchestra concert at home?  You can on Friday evenings at 9pm by tuning into 90.3FM WHRO.  Next year is sure to be exciting as VSO celebrates their 100th anniversary season (2020-2021), and will include some of the programming that was intended to finish out this season. You can be part of the music too, by following the links below.


Virginia Symphony Orchestra Music Learning Lab Facebook Instagram YouTube WHRO media player


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