Since October of last year, the Love in Music Santa Ana Branch has been holding virtual music lessons every week. Love in Music, a nonprofit public charity organization based in Southern California, has been providing children from under-served families with free music education for nearly 14 years. The organization’s high school volunteers teach children the basics of their instruments and foster their love for classical music.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Love in Music has had to put traditional in-person classes on hold and move lessons online for the 2020-21 season. Despite this drastic shift, both students and teachers have continued to make the most of their resources and demonstrate their dedication to music.
Every Saturday morning, students ranging from elementary to middle school age levels log into Zoom with their instruments, ready to practice. After a short greeting and check-in, they are then broken up into breakout groups based on the instrument they play. Every teacher is responsible for supervising one to two students, providing each student with plenty of attention and guidance.
A typical weekly lesson on Zoom is around an hour long. Teachers accommodate their students’ various skill levels, guiding them through warm-up exercises and pieces in preparation for seasonal concerts.
Having music lessons over Zoom does have its advantages. The screen share tool lets teachers easily present sheet music to their students and walk through measures. Additionally, being in a breakout room allows for more privacy and one-on-one connection than what would be possible in a crowded classroom. If a student has a question, their teacher can offer help immediately.
On the other hand, learning music is, at its core, a hands-on experience. It can be challenging to properly guide students through their mistakes over a screen and provide correct playing examples. Sound quality is compromised over Zoom as well. There are also times when students become distracted and drained from long periods of time online, causing them to get discouraged.
Students and teachers alike gradually realized that more patience and determination were required from them this year than any other previous year. The road to the finish line was not smooth, but they were able to push through a semester of online learning and hold Love in Music’s first virtual winter concert in January.
The concert consisted of a video compilation of student-recorded at-home performances and an audio recording of the teachers playing “The First Noel”. While this may seem underwhelming compared to a traditional in-person concert, the video was the direct product of all of Love in Music’s efforts and commitment to maintaining quality music education. Everyone felt extremely proud of what they were able to accomplish even while distanced.
Even online, Love in Music has found ways to connect and stay true to its mission of building a loving community with the gift of music. The enthusiasm that has come from the program’s participants during these past few months has been quite moving. Every week, students are eager to share details about their lives, everything from the names of pieces they are practicing to their music classes at school. They even unmute their mics and celebrate whenever someone’s birthday rolls around. With so many cheerful voices on-screen chiming in at once, it almost feels like nothing has changed.
With another virtual concert coming up in May, Love in Music is as busy as ever. Students continue to log in to meetings weekly, slowly but steadily improving on their instruments. They are looking forward to showcasing the skills they have developed, and rightfully so. Although the year is not over yet, Love in Music’s progress so far has definitely proved that pure passion and love for a craft is something that can easily transcend physical distance.
For more information about Love in Music’s program, please visit loveinmusic.org.