Bronx teacher brings music to students during COVID-19

Music teacher Jorge Quezada discuses teaching during the pandemic.
Photo courtesy of Jorge Quezada

Bronx-based music teacher Jorge Quezada has had much more on his plate than singing since COVID-19 arrived, including keeping students’ spirits up and their minds focused on school.

Quezada, 28, who teaches music at P.S. 359 at 750 Concourse Village W., is one of hundreds of teachers hired by Education Through Music (ETM), a nonprofit that works with schools to integrate music education into the classroom.

He has seen firsthand the effects of the pandemic as he recently lost his aunt to the virus and is doing the best he can to meet the emotional needs of his students.

“We don’t know what their lives are like after the school day,” he explained. “It has been a little bit rough adapting to the school day.”

Prior to the recent shuttering of the schools, he had been teaching hybrid and remote classes. He explained that neither of these experiences has been easy.

Quezada’s in-person lessons start with chanting together about intentions, which he said helps students focus their energy and process their emotions. He makes sure that as much lesson time as possible is spent in a circle, so that students feel a sense of community.

On Wednesdays, he takes his kindergarten class to the cafeteria so those who haven’t had breakfast can eat.

“As teachers, we noticed the impact of COVID-19 and tried to make sure we provide space for the children,” he said, adding that remote learning is much more of a challenge.

He tries to have weekly live Zoom check-ins with his remote students, as well as the video lessons he provides, but often worries this may not be enough.

According to Quezada, parents are not only dealing with the stress of loss of work or sick family members, but many are concerned about how their kids are going to be engaged throughout the school year.

“As a vocalist, I’ve seen a lot challenges in the pacing in how you would teach a song,” he said.

Quezada told the Bronx Times it is tough to hear who is on pitch when holding classes virtually.  With rumors of a vaccine coming soon, he hopes children can return to school sooner than later.

“I think remote instruction can work in a limited way,” he said.  “If we are working with students remotely, as an educator, I will do my best to make sure I’m still providing music as a core subject.”

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