by Kathy Kucsan, Ph.D. | Co-Founder and Education Director
We’re now in the fourth week of shutdown at the Center for Musical Arts. I feel wistful thinking of the silent building, dormant after twenty years of everyday music-making. The kid in me wonders if the pianos are lonely, and I imagine them playing together in a frequency that we just can’t hear right now.
What heartens me is the power of music, the magical thing that music does to connect us, even – and especially – when we’re apart. There are so many ways to be musical. Music reaches inside us and changes something. Our feelings, states of mind, moods, outlooks. I think we need music now more than ever.
I was struck by the thought that there is almost nowhere to hear live music these days. The only way to hear orchestral music, or really any music played by more than one person is via recording. Walking around my neighborhood yesterday, I did hear someone practicing the trombone, someone else playing electric guitar with the amp full blast, and someone down the street working on a Chopin etude. I left the house downcast, and those little moments of music perked me right back up. Will music become something different, as we explore it and find comfort in it and feel inspired by it while we’re living mostly separately in the current world?
I have been moved and entertained by the creativity online, from the New York Phil concerts to the Couch Choir to the family singing “One Day More” from Les Mis. Really, watch this!
Our fantastic faculty and community of students are showing us the power of music in action. Teachers have come up with innovative ways to interact and teach onscreen. At last count, they were experimenting with and using at least seven different online platforms with their students. Almost all CMA students have opted to continue lessons online. “We can’t thank you enough,” said one mom, “for making it possible to keep meeting with our guitar teacher while all this is going on. Music is one thing we can count on.” I hear similar things from our teachers.
We know that teaching online is a stopgap measure – virtual lessons can’t completely take the place of in-person music instruction. But every single day, I hear stories about students setting up their home practice areas, excitedly getting ready to log on and meet their teachers onscreen. One family has mom holding the phone just so during her son’s lesson so that he can see and hear his teacher. One of our violin instructors texts recordings of herself playing to her students who then play along, creating a virtual duet in almost-real time. Another teacher mails her students the stickers that she would have placed in their method books, recognizing progress and success. And one of our Justice High students says, “I do music to ease the chaos that runs through my mind on a daily basis…and to hopefully inspire somebody to do things or speak up about issues that may bother them.”
I’m inspired by and so proud of the CMA faculty for stepping up, being creative, and continuing to share music during this crisis time. It’s good for our hearts to stay connected. Music has a way of erasing distance, especially while our lives are currently turned upside-down.
When we started the Center for Musical Arts, we did so with a foundational philosophy of service. At the time, service meant including everyone who wanted to have musical experiences whether they could afford them or not. Right now, service has a much bigger meaning – it’s more important than ever that we continue to connect people to music and to each other during this time. We will do whatever we can for as long as we can in order to provide that musical link to one another. Online classes are now offered on a pay-what-you-can basis. A new online concert series, Invisible Audience will debut soon, featuring favorite Center performers. And lessons are always available on any instrument through a variety of online platforms.
Let music be the thing that connects us when we can’t be together.
Co-Founder and Education Director