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.