By Lauren Victory

CHICAGO (CBS) — We’re only a couple weeks away from the start of school, and we know no one wants to think about class, except the students you are about to meet.

Remote learning threw their favorite subject for a loop until their teachers drummed up a unique idea.

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CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains.

During the pandemic, middle school band class often meant playing alone, because playing together wasn’t an option.

“It [virtual band] was really hard, because it was always glitching on Zoom,” said Edie Zapchenk, a fifth grader at Martin Elementary School in the northwest suburbs.

Never mind the virtual lags. In reality, there was another collaboration complication for Edie’s class. Some of the musicians she was remote learning with were across the country in South Portland, Maine. The students, more than 1,000 miles apart, were pandemic pen pals.

“Even though they’re so far … they can still have a lot of things in common,” said Maine saxophone player Nicholas Zaccaria of what he learned from his new Midwest pals.

The musical interactions kept the kids engaged during a time of social isolation. In some videos, they performed songs they’d been practicing. In others, they taught each other tricks.

“I’ll start with counting. It’s one, two, three, four,” said Neil Shah, holding up a piece of paper with notes on it in one of his lessons.

In a Zoom interview with CBS 2, Shah – who is from Illinois – explained, “We would make a beat, or another song, like the rhythm.”

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In another recording, Isabelle Durost, from Maine, drew on her screen.

“That is what a half note looks like,” she said.

Each student’s upload left their teachers bursting with pride.

“Just seeing the commitment to help a friend that they don’t even know in person,” said Martin Elementary School Band Director Jake Walker.

Jen Fletcher, who teaches at South Portland Schools, added, “I think my students learned some perseverance and determination.”

The adults did, too. The band directors had never done this or even met before. Fletcher answered Walker’s call on Facebook for a music teacher willing to create a combo snail mail and virtual band project. Essentially, they were pen pals as well.

This video compilation sums up the semester.

If you listen close, you’ll hear the students’ hard work digitally mixed together for a final performance.

Both schools will go back to in-person learning this Fall.

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Even so, the band teachers say they haven’t ruled out the return of the musical pen pal project.

Lauren Victory