The Chamber Music Academy During COVID-19

Jul 31, 2020 | Chamber Music Academy, News, Off the Hook Arts

This month, Off the Hook Arts has been planning for the future. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of our lives have changed. This includes our academy programs, and the executive committee has been working on creating a new plan in order to follow health and safety guidelines. 

Founder and Executive Director of Off the Hook Arts Jephta Bernstein explains the direction that the Academy programs are planning to go in moving forward. “The Chamber Music Academy will go forward,” she says. “Our first priority for the year is that we are connecting with as many students in the most significant way possible.” Unfortunately, this means OtHA will not be working with the younger age group of the Meadowlark Music Program of students in the fall. Due to restrictions to ensure groups are following health and safety guidelines, many difficulties would arise in fostering an environment for those students. However, the CMA program will go on! 

Due to the cancellation of SummerFest 2020 and potentially WinterFest 2020, OtHA is facing some financial insecurities. Our nonprofit relies on the proceeds from these two festivals combined to support our academy programs. To adapt to the situation, we launched a crowdfunding campaign in May, but the typical significant support from small businesses, individual donors, and ticket sales, cannot be replaced. Bernstein stresses that right now, OtHA is hoping to curb these financial difficulties through continuing to move the crowdfunding campaign forward and “maintaining as much of a live music presence as we can.” In addition to our live SummerFest Drumming Circle event Reuniting in Rhythm, expect more COVID compliant events in the near future!

The overall plan for the CMA program is to begin around the same time as normal. Signups are open with around 10 students enrolled so far, and we are excited to welcome more. “The orchestra programs in the schools will not nearly be able to offer the same great instruction that they usually do,” Bernstein says. “We are hoping to help them have a significant satisfying, productive, and growing music experience still in the fall [in addition to] helping to augment what the schools are able to do.” 

CMA students will be organized into small chamber music ensembles and assigned a professional musician/teacher as a coach. They may choose to meet this coach in any location, scheduling meeting times based on flexibility for both parties involved. The students will be encouraged to meet with their ensemble groups outside of these coaching sessions to foster social interaction from a safe distance and to align with some sort of normalcy regarding the many changes they will experience on a social level in the fall. 

As per the CMA curriculum, two Chamber Orchestras will be offered on a weekly basis or a bi monthly basis. Students will be socially distanced in a large space and can enjoy the benefits of socially interactive music making in this way as well. With all of these changes, the experience may be even more involved than usual. 

Finally, “we will be encouraging [students] to use music as a destressor,” Bernstein says. “To find significant ways in just connecting with people in a very socially distant, wordless production that’s almost more impactful than just connecting face to face, where a lot of them will be missing this on a regular basis.”

OtHA continues to plan for the fall, but so far this organized and intentional plan is underway. In the meantime, CMA students are learning how to adapt to virtual lessons and a musical environment at home. 

OtHA Board Member Devin Odell spoke to CMA student Juliet Koenig for an article published by North Forty News. In regards to her lessons with Bernstein, Koenig told Odell that “the video lessons work well for her and that she continues to make good progress. In fact, she hopes that all the hard work she’s been able to do while forced to spend time at home might pay off and she will ‘come out of it better’ and maybe even advance past other students who haven’t been as diligent.”

Students at OtHA are in good spirits and remaining optimistic during this very uncertain time. In the fall, their wonderful attitudes and motivation to improve as musicians will pave the way for our new normal. Adjusting to this plan won’t be easy, but our mission still remains the same – Keep Lives Musical!

Listen to our incredible CMA students practicing at home during quarantine here: