Michael Casimir, a violist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, has been teaching music online at Normandy High School this fall during the symphony’s reduced schedule.
Casimir, 29, can relate to the feelings of isolation for students, who have not returned to their classrooms since the school shut down last March.
“Music is a very collaborative and social thing,” Casimir said. “They do music because their friends are in it, and that’s not a thing anymore because nobody’s in the room with you.”
Normandy orchestra students said they are grateful for the chance to study with Casimir, one of the few Black professional violists in the country. For his part, Casimir said he hopes to be a bridge between the schools and fine arts, working with students who are future audience members or even music stand partners.
“My classroom has more Black kids than the orchestra does,” Casimir said. “The opportunity to work with people that look like me in classical music, it’s something I’ve always loved and wanted to do.”
Duane Foster, fine arts coordinator for the Normandy Schools Collaborative, said bringing in resident teachers from the community helps dispel myths about the high school, which gained national attention as Michael Brown’s alma mater.
“I’ve been going to Normandy my whole life,” said sophomore LaShawnna Levy, who plays the bass. “If you’ve never been, we are a family. We’ve played instruments together from the second grade. Our music is top-notch. We’re smart, we can act, we can dance. We can do it all.”