News Story

History Class Holds Virtual Art Show and Musical Performances As Part of Course Final

Cover page for Sarah Martin's (C'21) comic book, "The Dreamy Drunken Woman."
Cover page for Sarah Martin’s (C’21) comic book, “The Dreamy Drunken Woman.”

Each year, Department of History professor Bryan McCann teaches the course HIST 099 Rio de Janeiro to a large group of undergraduates. Though the class was held over Zoom this year, the professor and students were still able to share their creative finals of recorded music and art in an upbeat, community-centered setting. 

Culture and Community 

HIST 099 Rio de Janeiro is an introductory course that teaches students the various elements of historical work and thinking. This year, the class of 100 students met weekly on Zoom to study the culture of Rio in a historical context and showcase this knowledge in a final project. 

McCann tasked his students with either completing a paper or a creative assignment that would be shared with the class for their last assignment. Roughly one third of the students chose the creative final, which took the form of either art or music in performances that truly dazzled.

Thirteen students submitted recordings of their renditions of musical pieces by noted Brazillian composers such as Jobim, Barroso
, Gonzaga and Nazareth that were played at the beginning of class. 

Senna Headley's (C'22) "Portrait of Tim Maia"
Senna Headley’s (C’22) “Portrait of Tim Maia”

They used a variety of instruments including the violin, piano, guitar, trumpet and flute. Some students included vocals in their performance or played multiple instruments. Other recordings showed a student playing a duet with a sibling. Jerry Gross (C’21) chose to teach the class three popular Brazillian dance moves as part of his final. 

After the performances were shown to the class, McCann displayed the visual arts pieces submitted by students in a powerpoint. The mediums of the art pieces varied, but included painting, collage, digital art and charcoal. 

Throughout the presentations, the students sent constant encouragement to one another through the chat feature on Zoom. Each student that showcased their work was applauded for their creativity and ingenuity. 

“The collection of talents here is so inspiring!” Andrew Davenport, a TA for the class wrote. “And here I thought you all were just great writers and discussants.”

In a year where many have felt isolated, McCann and his class were able to generate a sense of community, even from afar. The professor says that teaching this class full of talented students has helped motivate him throughout the semester.

“The students know I love the cultural history of Rio, and I love sharing it with them,” he says. “But that only works because of the energy and engagement I get back from the students. I am so grateful that they continued to engage and create even in these challenging online circumstances.”

-by Shelby Roller (G’19)