There is no doubt that we have all heard the words, “in these times…”, “During these unprecedented times”… and here at Villa Musica, we have also been trying to navigate through making and sharing music in “these times”. Now, summer has flown by too and a quarantine that we all hoped would last a few months has become semi-indefinite. As we approach the fall academic year, as our students and friends return to school, Villa Musica is looking back on the past five months and all our community has achieved through this hard time.
The transition to the world that we have settled into today came in a series of uncertain phases. Unfortunately, the first of our programs to be cancelled were the Musical Biographies program that serves older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s and the Community Chorus. The rest of the ensembles and group classes soon followed.
While the COVID-19 social distancing and shelter-in-place order caused Villa Musica to close its doors in mid-March, the music has kept on playing regardless. The team here at Villa Musica quickly transitioned to holding all of our private lessons to zoom lessons. While we knew they would not be the same as meeting with a teacher in-person, the virtual lessons kept, and are still keeping, our students and teachers connected through music.
At the beginning of this transition, we decided to move up our June fundraiser to help us raise funds so that we could keep paying our teachers and maintaining our financial aid awards. We were able to do this with the support of our wonderful community, and through our special fundraiser we raised $47,000 to keep our doors open and the music playing, albeit virtually. Many families also donated their cancelled group class tuition back to us! We are proud to say that we have not reduced any of the financial aid awards through this time!
In the Spring, some of our group classes were even able to continue online. Regina Tolley’s Adult Group Violin class and Gianna Hamilton’s Music Adventures continued online for students. The Jazz Ensemble, led by Villa Musica’s percussion instructor Isaac Crow, even put together an entire socially distanced album. Visit their bandcamp page to buy it, all of the proceeds will go back to Villa Musica.
On top of reimagining old group class favorites to the virtual platform, the faculty and admin team came up with innovative new group classes like The Composer Discovery Project (CDP) and an Expressive Arts Workshop. CDP includes a draw-your-life style segment that teaches elementary students about different composers throughout the ages, and is taught by piano instructor Remi Ha. The Expressive Arts workshop is led by certified art therapist Joy Raab, who also participates in Musical Biographies.
While it was important to us to keep our students at the main campus engaged in music, it was equally crucial that we came up with ways to keep the Villa Musica satellite communities involved in free virtual music education. Weekly classes like Music Adventures and Beat-making were offered to groups of students at College-Rolando Library. For our students at Malcolm X Library and Logan Heights Library, Andre Beller, Rebeca Tamez, and José Rodriguez (pictured) created video series on basic violin and guitar. For Spring, we sent videos to over 100 families in our satellite programs.
Over the Summer, when we normally do not have community programs running, we were able to offer a violin class at our new satellite, College-Rolando Library. We also had two separate week-long camps at Malcolm X Library which were focused on electronic beat making and song writing.
We also partnered with the San Diego Unified School District and Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) teachers to host masterclasses for their music students. Each masterclass featured a Villa Musica faculty member and a VAPA teacher, and together they taught instrument-specific classes to students in the district for free. We hosted masterclasses in cello, viola, voice, brass, flute, clarinet, and saxophone. Pictured below is a masterclass with VM Community Partnerships instructor Nico Hueso and VAPA teacher Julie Yaeger.
On top of all the programs and lessons that have continued through this time, Villa Musica has been hosting a virtual Friday night recital series, giving our amazing faculty members the opportunity to perform and showcase their talents to our community. These #LiveFromTheVilla performances have showcased 14 teaching artists and counting. These weekly events have been a great way for us to continue to make and share music with our community. To watch old and upcoming #LiveFromTheVilla performances, visit our Facebook Page
Now that COVID restrictions have loosened, we are preparing to return to our main campus in Sorrento Valley. New COVID-19 protocols will include social distanced group classes, group classes outside, plexi-glass screens inside studios, and temperature checks. The world has not returned to normal quite yet, but music has never changed, even if the way in which we share it has. Villa Musica has been proud to continue transforming lives through music through these times.