Valley View Elementary Principal Todd Monos arranges a virtual concert by Steven Courtney, a Lancaster musician, for students who watched the concert via the video conferencing platform Zoom. Monos hosted media at a showing of the concert at the school. York Dispatch


Hundreds of students from Valley View and Yorkshire elementary schools gathered for an assembly Friday morning.

It was just like any other school day, except this event was all done virtually.  

Showing toothy grins, York Suburban kindergartners sat in their pajamas with their parents, miles away from school as they listened to Lancaster-based children’s musician Steven Courtney deliver his first performance over Zoom, a popular video conferencing software.

“I was also thinking just yesterday about how I would feel if I was a kindergartner and suddenly I just wasn’t able to go to school and I wasn’t able to see my friends,” Courtney said, addressing the children over his webcam.

“What’s really great is that even though it’s a hard, kind of a challenging time right now… we’re able to connect like this,” he said.

Friday marked the end of the first week of remote learning — at York Suburban called Forward Learning — for grades K-3.

“We’re hoping to achieve school,” said Valley View Principal Todd Monos, when asked why he decided to organize a virtual assembly.

More: 'Popcorn on the screen': Virtual concert planned for York Suburban students

Valley View kindergarten teacher Patty Murray said assemblies are something her students are used to, and it's important to preserve that sense of normalcy as much as possible.

She joined the 181 participants who attended the first video session at 10 a.m., watching from her own home. Sessions for first and second graders followed.

“They were smiling, they were dancing, they were out of their chairs,” she said, happy to see them having a good time.

More: Like what you’re reading? Not a subscriber? Click here for full access to The York Dispatch’s hard-hitting news, local sports and entertainment.

In the Valley View gym, a big projector screen hung down from the stage, showing Courtney dressed in a newsboy cap and vest against a backdrop of pink, yellow and green swirls.

“Did I hear you say you were feeling sorta bad, did I hear you say you were feeling kind of sad… take a little walk in your happy-go-lucky shoes,” he sang, strumming his acoustic guitar, accented by his harmonica.

He can see students, but he can’t hear them as he talks to an off-camera assistant who hands him a glass of water, but… "oh no, this is robot water?" he said.

His eyes grew wide and popped into an intense stare as he broke into a few bars in a robot voice and Monos burst out laughing.

Throughout his performance, students were jumping up and down, raising their hands in the air or flapping their arms like birds as Courtney encouraged them to follow the motions.

A girl with blonde hair broke into a smile as he made underwater bubble singing sound effects for a pirate song.

More: York Suburban student named state champion in poetry performance contest

Monos said parents have been sending him texts with good feedback, and in turn, Courtney is also getting more requests for virtual gigs.

Courtney had put out a Facebook post saying he would perform for a classroom over Zoom, Monos said. 

The musician had a number of tricks up his sleeve to make the sessions fun, including a puppet with blue hair wearing headphones to greet students while they were waiting for him to set up.

But he didn't lose the opportunity to bring the conversation back to learning, reminding listeners, “You know, reading inspires your imagination like no other activity."

The most important thing on Friday, however, was to see students connecting and having a good time, Monos said.

"That's all we needed this week — the smiles," he said.

Read or Share this story: