It’s been a crazy year, to say the least, and we continue to face uncertainty in the near future. We have been fortunate that our teachers, students, and families quickly made the transition to online learning in March 2020 and hence helped create a sense of normalcy so desperately needed at this time.
Financial assistance for lessons during the pandemic
We are currently fundraising to provide financial relief to those families (current and new) that have been economically affected by the pandemic through job loss. In addition, our board just announced that they will match new donations for the pandemic relief! We anticipate distributing these funds on an as needed basis until used.
We met the online challenge
It was a little bumpy at first, but we rapidly made the transition to online learning. So much so that we held online recitals at the end of the semester. To ensure that the recitals ran smoothly, we asked students to submit videos of their performances, which we put together in one hour videos and aired live on Zoom. It was a sheer delight to see our families and their reactions as they watched the Zoom recitals. The new format had the added benefit of allowing extended family members from afar to enjoy the recitals.
We also held our bi-annual Ocy Downs Piano Competition online. We asked the performers to come into our studios one at a time to film their competition pieces. (Thanks to an arrangement with Steinway & Sons, the Conservatory is equipped with beautiful Steinway pianos; also available for sale.) The performances were then edited together and sent to our panel of jurors. All of the students did an outstanding job. The first and second place winners were our very own students, Michael Bostock and Quentin Wu, both students of Naydene Bowder, charter PCM faculty member. The video of Michael’s performance can be found on our homepage. Note, Michael is only 14 years old.
Improving the online learning experience
What we’ve found is that like anything else, there are pros and cons to online learning. While online lessons are not quite the same as in-person, they are convenient, allow some students to participate more fully, encourage utilization of online enhancements, and have the potential for expanding our geographic reach. In an effort to adapt to the new normal, we have been working on delivering a better online product this fall to provide online transparency and communication between teachers and students/families. This will include a user friendly template for detailing items covered at each lesson with links to various online resources. We’ve also invested in high quality equipment so our faculty can teach online lessons from our studios.
Online and in-person class offerings in the fall
Come fall we anticipate a hybrid approach; both online and in-person private and group lessons. However, we will not require anyone, faculty or students, to come in for in-person lessons if they are uncomfortable doing so. The safety of our community comes first.
While our plans continue to evolve as events change, we will be following CDC guidelines for our slow re-opening, i.e., social distancing, masks, disinfecting our space, plastic barriers where appropriate, etc. In general, string and jazz ensembles will be in-person, while our choral program will remain online with possibly periodic optional in-person small group sessions. Group classes such as fiddle and jazz history/theory will remain online. We anticipate offering our Early Childhood Music Program in-person in the spring. (Most everyone agrees that it is just about impossible for toddlers to practice social distancing.) Our Karger College Prep Program for advanced middle and high school students will be in-person on Saturdays from 10:00 am-1:00 pm.
At this point, we are anticipating in-person recitals in December in the large Sanctuary so audience members can practice proper social distancing. However, for our choral groups, singers, wind instruments, and those students continuing with online lessons, we will hold online Zoom recitals as we did in June.