UP Music Professor Challenges Her High School Students to Have Fun Outside Their Comfort Zones

Kathryn BriggsThe shelter in place requirement has inspired new hobbies and interests: tackling 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles, joining virtual dance parties, dusting off the ukulele, or knitting scarves for the family. Learning to beatbox may not be at the top of this list, but University of Portland adjunct faculty member and Bel Canto treble choir director, Kathryn Briggs recently challenged her high school students to go outside their comfort zone by practicing this vocal percussive artform.

When she is not teaching at UP, Briggs works as fine arts department chair and choral/general music teacher at St. Mary’s Academy, where she has relied on creativity to transform the joy of group singing into an engaging online experience for her high school students. Before SMA converted to online classes, students in her show choir and a cappella ensembles had asked to learn beatboxing and vocal percussion. Beatboxing was originally scheduled for later in the semester as a final skill to add to music the students had mastered, but Briggs moved the lesson forward, thinking it would be a fun project for her class during these stressful times. Briggs composed four measures of a sample beatbox rhythm and included her own video demonstration, then asked her students to submit their attempts.

Watch Briggs and her students beatbox