Quaranteams help burst the COVID bubble

Music students overcome constraints to collaborate and create.

A screen shot of Jordyn Davis' home page. She is seated on a piano bench with a piano behind her and her upright bass on the right.
Graduate student Jordyn Davis said that with some extra time the pandemic gave her, the Quaranteams proved to be a great motivator to update her web site.
Screen shot of eight people in a zoon meeting.
College of Music Director of Career Services and Music Entrepreneurship Christine Beamer (top, center) coordinated with colleagues at other institutions and led this session in which students presented their final projects to one another.
Screen shots of the home pages of Bell Coty, standing behind her harp, and Rachel Frederiksen, seated on a bench with her bassoon.
Graduate students Belle Coty (top) and Rachel Frederiksen (above) were among 27 students from three institutions who gathered and completed projects during the unique, self-guided quanranteam opportunities.

What do you do when everything is suddenly canceled and all of your summer plans are put on indefinite hold? Take your quarantine status and bust through that wall of seclusion to form a “quanranteam.” At least that’s what Christine Beamer did, and she helped a lot of students along the way.

Students in music and entrepreneurship often fill their summers with festivals, performances, concerts, and collaborations with peers. But as the year progressed Beamer noticed a deepening void as the pandemic diminished the slate of opportunities available to students the MSU College of Music. So she set out to re-establish the community and liveliness of summertime.

As the College’s director of career services and music entrepreneurship, Beamer regularly meets with counterparts across the Big 10 and other institutions of higher education, most recently through web-based conference apps. She started asking how music programs were bridging the chasm of social isolation and preserving opportunities for their students. It wasn’t long before she and her colleagues formulated a way students could network, explore careers and internships, and collaborate while following public health guidelines.

In early May, Beamer joined colleagues at two universities to launch online project and discussion groups for students. These “quaranteams” met virtually over the course of the summer, and involved four to six students each. The idea was to build community and help students fulfill summer goals, advance their professional and artistic skills, and foster inspiration and creativity in the process. The results were a slew of professional projects that stretched boundaries, fused disciplines, and created works, brands, recordings, and research reflective of current events and culture.

“The pandemic placed a number of constraints on the artistic industry,” said Beamer. “But one of the things these students demonstrated is that constraints can be great inspirers of creativity.”

A screen shot of the YouTube page of Spencer Arias. A photo of him is in the upper right corner with tabs to all his videos across the screen.
The project of graduate student Spencer Arias involved creating a YouTube channel in which he hosted a show that featured cooking and drink mixing with other creatives.

Bringing it home

Beamer, Jonathan Kuuskoski from the University of Michigan, and Jeffrey Nytch from the University of Colorado Boulder, reached out to students and organized groups based on the students’ summer project goals. Students provided inspiration, accountability, and feedback to each other as they created original compositions, arranged pieces for particular instruments, recorded videos, did research, and launched businesses. Several students built websites to advance their business ideas or their own brand. Some cross-collaborated on their projects for an additional outcome. Every two weeks, each group came together and shared how their individual projects were developing—and got feedback and ideas for the next step of their process.

“Each quaranteam became a mini board of directors for the individual projects,” said Beamer. “We were all learning from each other, as different members of each group shared their different perspectives and expertise so that the individual project benefited.”

Of the 27 participating students across six teams, 19 were from MSU, three from UM, and five from CU Boulder. Michigan’s Kuuskoski agreed the summer quaranteams presented a unique self-guided opportunity for students to engage with peers from other institutions while pursuing enterprising professional development projects. He added that quaranteams drove home that many aspiring professionals face the same obstacles, and contributed to an increased sense of self-confidence among students.

“This experience gave our students a safe place to experiment and get feedback on their audacious ideas which have the potential to set forth new models for professional opportunity,” said Kuuskoski, chair of UM’s Department of Entrepreneurship and Leadership in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. “Everyone left each meeting with new ideas, supportive feedback, and increased momentum around seeing their ideas through to implementation.”

Beamer plans to organize two to three more remote collaborative groups of students this fall. She said the success of the extracurricular summer program demonstrates the tenacity and courage of the artistic community to overcome adversity and to draw inspiration from what can sometimes appear to be insurmountable challenges.

“This summer was extraordinary and shaped by circumstances,” she said. “We’d love to give students the opportunity to be more connected with their counterparts at other institutions. If we can build communities virtually, that opens up new, exciting horizons.”

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