SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
One of Ohio's online schools has added an unusual offering to its course lineup: chorus. Now students are learning to sing together, even if they're only joined by an Internet connection. StateImpact Ohio's Molly Bloom explains.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock.
MOLLY BLOOM, BYLINE: Diana Newlon sits on her living room couch leading choir practice. With her laptop balanced on one arm of the sofa, she looks at a screen full of videos of girls singing Jingle Bell Rock. Each girl is in her own little square, arranged Brady-Bunch credits style on the screen.
Newlon teaches at the Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy, OHDELA for short. And she's the founder of perhaps the only all-online school choir in the state, or even the nation. Newlon's boss, the principal of OHDELA, thought she was crazy when she suggested starting a school chorus last year. OHDELA students live all over Ohio and take classes entirely online.
DIANA NEWLON: And he said, well, how could you do that? And he said, Well, I just don't think they would come.
BLOOM: He was wrong. Nearly 20 students enrolled this year. They practice online through group video sessions twice a week. Plus, they have in-person practices at least once a quarter.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Singing) (Unintelligible)
BLOOM: Instead of lining up on risers, they use a video-chat program for the online practices.
NEWLON: They're there with their bed hair and their pajamas and sitting on their bed sometimes.
BLOOM: But a school chorus taught mostly online? Can that even work?
ERIKA BLON: I feel so, because, you know, Ms. Newlon is an awesome teacher. Awesome, awesome. And if we have a problem she's right there to say, OK, well, if you have problem with this listen to how I do it.
BLOOM: That's Erika Blon. She's a senior at OHDELA and a leader of the chorus.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHATTER)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: That's like the (unintelligible).
BLOOM: Recently the choir held one of its in-person practices at OHDELA's headquarters in a downtown Akron office tower. Afterwards, as the chorus members got ready to leave, I talked with OHDELA student Hannah Fulks. Hannah has cerebral palsy and her voice sometimes wavers.
GROUP: (Singing) Need a little singing ringing through the rafter. And we need a little snappy.
BLOOM: But Hannah loves to sing. She's wonders whether she'd be welcomed in a regular school chorus.
HANNAH FULKS: Because would they accept me or not? I'm not sure. These girls all accept me like I'm like just another girl.
BLOOM: The full chorus's first performance will be a holiday concert today in Akron. For the first time, the online chorus will perform in front of a live audience.
FULKS: Other people will get to see what a online school can do without being together like every day.
BLOOM: Hannah says it's going to be awesome.
For NPR News, I'm Molly Bloom on Akron, Ohio.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.