The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to the methods used in teaching over the past
year. For music teachers, the challenges have been numerous but not insurmountable. At. St.
Mary’s College, music teacher Kait Tappenden tried an approach that gained popularity because of
pandemic restrictions.
In the fall, Ms. Tappenden decided to purchase a few sets of boomwhackers to offset the unfortunate
loss of opportunity to play a concert band instrument because of health restrictions. Boomwhackers
are percussion tubes that are pitched. They can be sanitized after each use and each tube plays a
different note.
“The inspiration came from a YouTube channel called HarvardTHUD, which makes popular music into
boomwhacker covers,” said Tappenden.
“While they are difficult to play, I figured if students at Harvard could recreate great songs, then my
students could as well.”
Ms. Tappenden asked her students to help make a list of tunes that they liked and she had to figure
out which one was going to be most inspiring.
“It also had to sound decent using percussion only. After making a list, the song that stuck out
immediately was Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. It has a very well-known bassline and memorable
melody,” said Tappenden.
The third quad master Grade 9 class took about four weeks to learn the piece together. Then, over
the course of another week, some parts were recorded separately and others with the class together.
In fact, the final product — a video — has some footage of the recording process in it. The other
percussion instruments used were a drum kit, timpani, glockenspiel, and piano.
“I wanted the recording to still have a live feel as the percussion ensemble is very unique and this is
as close to performing live as we can get at this time,” said Tappenden.
Tappenden took a chance on purchasing the boom whackers, not knowing how her Grade 9 students
would react. They say that the experience has been fun and rewarding.
“The final recording sounded different than I thought it would. It went better than I expected it to. I felt
confident about recording the audio separately because I could focus better on my part. I am happy it
turned out as good as it did,” said Tyson Bastos.
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“I wanted to play piano and drums, but instead I played boom whackers, which was fine because those
were fun too. My music teacher made music really fun by letting me play piano, and is helping me
learn how to play, which is definitely not what I expected,” said Matthew Frolick.
“I am glad I took this course because I love learning the new things in music and playing instruments.
One thing that surprised me the most was that we played with boom whackers. A piece of plastic can
actually sound like different notes. It’s just amazing how that works,” said Summer Gordon.
“When I came into music, I felt a little nervous because I didn’t know very much about
playing instruments or rhythm. As we got further into the year, I got better at playing music and got
more confident and I liked coming to this class,” said Joey Gulley.
“I feel quite confident in my playing skills and practicing now that I have some more
experience playing music. I’ve improved a lot during this class and learned a lot about music.”
This student reaction is what Ms. Tappenden was hoping for in a year that has been a challenge.
She wants to assure everyone that music is still alive and well at St. Mary’s College. She hopes their
video is something the community will enjoy.