Punahou’s Guitar Program Changes Its Tune

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With the emergence of online learning due to COVID-19, Punahou’s guitar program has been forced to change, introducing a new curriculum, and also new styles of teaching.

The guitar program consists of three different class levels, ranging from Beginning Guitar up to Classical Guitar Ensemble II. The class, which might not seem possible to teach online, has had to develop new measures to keep the students playing the guitar. 

The head of the guitar program, Darin Au, has changed the normal in-person curriculum to accommodate an online learning environment. Mr. Au also has plans in place for a socially distanced in-person class if the school transitions to the yellow tier.

“A typical day in guitar class is like many other instrumental music classes around the country,” commented Mr. Au. “We do our warmups, I talk about technique, and it’s all with ensemble playing in mind.” 

Now with online learning, the class looks much different. 

“I’ve created my lessons where I demonstrate something and the students play along with the video.” 

The focus of the class has shifted from ensemble playing, to working on technique and learning new concepts that students work through on their own. 

“I’m also trying to prepare the students for when they graduate,” said Mr. Au, “They may not have a teacher, and by giving them all these individual skills they are now able to find resources on their own, and understand things on their own” 

Although the situation isn’t ideal, Mr. Au believes that once he is able to hold in person classes again, this new style of teaching will have helped his students become more polished guitarists. 

“When we come back together, having all these skills is going to make us a better ensemble, and I think we’ll be able to learn music faster.” 

Jack Pang ‘21, a student in Classical Guitar Ensemble II, also believes that online learning and the new curriculum has helped him improve as a guitarist. 

“I have definitely grown as a guitarist through online learning because I have learned some skills that I would not have otherwise learned in school,” said Pang.

While students in the classes have been getting better at the instrument, it’s become evident that there may be a disconnect between students, and also the teacher. 

“When we’re in the same room, making music together and when we make great sounds together, I think we all feel it, and that excites us to work harder, or play a more challenging piece,” commented Mr. Au. 

Another student in Classical Guitar Ensemble II, Malia Dunaway ‘21, also feels the same way.

“We were so used to hearing each other’s cues when we played to help keep up with the correct timing,” said Dunaway, “Now that we play alone, we are forced to really focus in on the music that we are assigned.” 

Nathan Kwon ‘21, a student of Classical Guitar Ensemble II misses the fun dynamics of class.

“I do feel a disconnect between students and teachers as usually under normal circumstances we have a lot of banter in class. These friendly conversations and jokes we normally have aren’t really possible when we’re online and have to be muted for the majority of the class,” commented Kwon. 

In a period of continual growth during the pandemic, Mr. Au sees life lessons embedded into his class. 

“This individual teaching and building of these individual skills are to make the students lifelong learners.”