Students at the music conservatory are learning to play their instruments in a new format.
Gone, for now, are the days of students being dropped off at their music teacher’s house or studio for private lessons. When the coronavirus pandemic hit Central Florida, the owners of Musical Minds Conservatory of Windermere wanted to continue offering their lessons — so they turned to an all-virtual format.
Heidi R. Larson and Ann Thorsen-Moran, both piano teachers, have owned the Musical Minds studio for 10 years, and while they have always offered the option of one-on-one instruction virtually, this is the first time they have had to provide all of their lessons in this format. Students need to have an electronic device near the instrument they are playing, and the teachers can give instruction and feedback.
“We can hear dynamics and see everything,” the owners said, so students still are getting a well-rounded, professional music lesson.
“What’s great about it is it’s really very flexible so the student doesn’t have to have a lot of extra equipment,” they said. “Our teachers have been trained and educated on offering virtual lessons via online platforms including Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or other similar platforms.”
Most of their students live in Florida, Thorsen-Moran and Larson said, but there are some taking lessons from other states and other countries.
Musical Minds has 12 teachers and about 200 students. They said a majority of the students have been able to transition to the new way of learning; some have had to put their music lessons on hold. Most of them kept their original lesson time, too, Larson and Thorsen-Moran said, but a few have needed to change to a different day or time because of their family’s new schedules.
“As a whole, I think people are realizing this can be a positive thing in their life,” they said. “It has been positive because, as teachers, we’re doing the best we can and conveying positivity. And children can see through our compassion and our care for their learning.”
Children have become so adept at computers that Musical Minds can teach children as young as 4 to play an instrument.
“The level of commitment is there,” they said.
The virtual lessons also have drawn a few more students to the company, including those with some extra time on their hands wanting to learn how to play the piano or violin or take vocal lessons.
“A lot of people, this has really has opened their eyes that this is a viable option,” Larson and Thorsen-Moran said. “Students have to take more ownership of their music, and … we help them to learn how to be their own teacher.”
Virtual lessons include visual aids, standard repertoire and learning; student-teacher interaction includes duets and demonstration.
Lessons are sprinkled with music games and cards and other props to stimulate the student.
“The learning activities really help when you are teaching virtually,” they said. “Even just smiling and making eye contact and still having that connection with these students.”
When not under a quarantine, Musical Minds operate studios at Dance and Music Orlando and Windermere Preparatory School.
The owners have waived all registration fees for the 2020-21 year.
Larson, a nationally certified teacher of music, has taught for 25 years. She as a Bachelor of Music in piano performance and piano pedagogy. She has published her own theory book series, "The Well-Rounded Musician," as well as several books of original compositions.
Thorsen-Moran, a Royal Conservatory of Music certified teacher, has a Bachelor of Arts from Viterbo University. She specializes in piano performance and piano pedagogy and has studied music for 35 years and taught music and performance for 17 years. She has accompanied bands at area theme parks, as well as orchestras, choirs, Broadway shows and soloists.