I just love music. Every piece is so cool and amazing—it's beautiful and has different notes. Each type of music and note creates something new and interesting. All the techniques are wonderful and they can make one same note have many sounds. Every music/instrument is very unique and different but so good at the same time. I find music through guitar beautiful and amazing. I like singing along to my songs while playing on my guitar. Sometimes I just like to play some notes on my own. I love the different sounds and things that make a violin sound so graceful like a ritardando, it makes the end of a piece so beautiful and vibratos just make largely unique sounds.
The joy he brings to his lessons is so uplifting and always brings a smile to my face. There is not a challenge he will shy away from. It is clear that music means so much to him and is a big part of his life. I am honored to teach him at this point in his musical journey.
I love music because I can sing and dance to it. Violin classes with Ms. Mackenzie are great because she is kind and makes me smile.
I am excited to announce Eleanor as July’s student of the month. I am nominating Eleanor because she shows up everyday enthusiastic to learn and brings so much laughter and light to our lessons. She is always asking questions, focused on finessing her technique, and is reflective and perseveres when she struggles. I look forward to Wednesdays to see what stories she has to share and what revelations she has had over the past week of practice. Keep up the great work Eleanor, you’re becoming a fabulous violinist!
Pathways Through Music, a non-profit organization recently founded by Orpheus Academy's own Jesse Crites and Douglas Stefaniak, aims to serve Williamson County with quality music programming that benefits schools, communities, and individuals. The organization provides elementary music education to lacking campuses, creates ensembles and events, and funds private lesson scholarships for those in need.
In this abridged first episode of their conversational series, "Pickup Notes," Jesse and Douglas speak about the purpose and goals of Pathways Through Music, as well as what comes next and how to support their mission.
Douglas: Hi everyone, welcome to "Pickup Notes," a sit-down with the directors of Pathways Though Music. My name is Douglas Stefaniak, I'm the Program Director at Pathways Through Music.
Jesse: My name is Jesse Crites, I'm the Executive Director for Pathways Through Music.
Douglas: What is the need we are fulfilling in the community?
Jesse: Well we are serving the Williamson County community. We know that Leander does not have a dedicated music teacher for their elementary school students, and they don't have string programs, that is, orchestra or guitar. So we're really looking to address those needs for Leander. We also serve Title I schools that we have in Round Rock, and we also look to provide private lesson instructions for students involved and enrolled in our after-school programming.
Douglas: Why did we create Pathways Through Music?
Jesse: Well I think you and I sat down, along with a lot of other colleagues of ours, and we just noticed that nobody else was doing this, nobody else was really focusing on these specific needs. So we felt the calling to do just that, to provide these programs for those schools.
Douglas: Yeah. And on a personal note I know that I moved to Austin because of the thriving music scene, and there's so much to do with guitar. But then in the district just north of the city, there doesn't seem to be as many opportunities.
Jesse: Yeah, I mean if you think about-- Williamson County is right next to Travis County, and Travis County boasts one of the most iconic American music scenes: Austin, Texas. And yet just north of that county you have a school district that doesn't provide a specific music teacher for their elementary kids, and doesn't even have string programs. To me that's a bit of a travesty, and something that I know you, and I, and this organization can help address.
"Travis County boasts one of the most iconic American music scenes: Austin, Texas. And yet just north of that county you have a school district that doesn't provide a specific music teacher for their elementary kids, and doesn't even have string programs."
Douglas: What is it that we are currently working on? What kind of programs are we starting, what schools are in contact with?
Jesse: Funny thing, I thought that was going to be another challenge: "So we started this non-profit, is anybody going to want to take advantage of what we offer?" Surprisingly, it has not been a challenge. In fact, we have had to limit our number of schools.
We are going to be starting our programming this fall with C.D. Fulkes Middle School and Voigt Elementary School. Both are in Round Rock, both are Title I schools, and both are very excited to have us. A challenge that pops up there is providing instruments for these students, and that's something we're currently working on. We're working with other non-profits to help get instruments into those two schools.
We're anticipating anywhere between 6 students to maybe 24 for the first year, but with the capability of teaching up to 32 students in each classroom.
Douglas: Right. And all of those students are eligible for the private lesson scholarship, right?
Jesse: Yes. Of course part of our mission is to eliminate barriers. The most obvious is financial, some of the less obvious include transportation. You may have the actual financial means to do something but no actual resource to get you to that lesson. So providing scholarship money for students to pursue private lessons with an instructor of their choice. It's not dedicated to one school, so instead the idea here is that they'll find a qualified teacher that is within their travel resources, within their community.
Douglas: I think it would be great if we could let everyone know kind of what we're doing next and what our plans are for the future. So could you give us an update on what we're going to be doing moving forward?
Jesse: Yeah, quite simply put: grow.
Jesse: Extending our program into more schools and more school districts. So right now we're just in Round Rock and just in two schools, one elementary and one middle. Our big mission is to get into Leander ISD, and of course Hutto, Cedar Park, Georgetown as well, they're all within Williamson County. The vision is to expand into those school districts where the need is as well.
Developing our donor network and funding sources. Obviously a non-profit cannot be successful without a dedicated and supportive network of people giving time, finances, donating instruments, and probably a number of other ways that people can help out as well.
Sharing our mission with other organizations, whether it's non-profit or for-profit. And the goal is really to become a staple in the community. When people think of music and Williamson County, I want them to think of Pathways Through Music as well.
Douglas: Yeah, I agree. I think that's fantastic.
To those of you who have supported us so far, thank you so much, I'd like to say that. It's been really great hearing how supportive everyone is, and I'm looking forward to continuing to grow those relationships.
Jesse: You know I just want our audience, young and old, to just know this: You have a voice and it's worth hearing.
Watch the full episode: https://pathwaysthroughmusic.org/2021/06/18/pickup-notes-episode-1/
Please consider donating: https://pathwaysthroughmusic.org/donate/
Aylin has been a vital part of the Orpheus community for over a decade! She strongly believes in music’s ability to make a difference in the lives of others, and understood the isolating effect of the pandemic and social distancing, especially for senior citizens. As a result, Aylin created the Musical Postcards for Seniors initiative to organize virtual concerts for seniors in retirement homes, which united many Orpheus students, teachers, and families toward a good cause.
Now that Musical Postcards has come to a close, Aylin’s guitar teacher and Orpheus director, Dr. Klondike Steadman, spoke with her about the project, her time at Orpheus Academy, and her advice for others in using music for positive change.
Klondike: Hi Aylin, thank you so much for being here today!
Aylin: Hi, thank you.
Klondike: I can't believe you're getting ready to go off to college. I just think about that ambitious little girl who came-- I don't know, were you four or five when you first came to Orpheus?
Aylin: I think I was like six years old.
Klondike: You were just so focused and intense. You're still a really focused person, and you just wanted to be so good at everything you did, and you put your whole heart into everything you did here at Orpheus. I almost can't imagine Orpheus going forward without you. You've been such a big part of Orpheus for 12 years, is that right?
Aylin: Yeah, 12 years.
Klondike: It's really incredible. I had you in some of my earliest Musicianship classes, when you were just six years old. And now you're graduating high school! How awesome is that?
Klondike: Looking back at all of those years, and it's way too many things to even mention in one interview, what are some of your favorite memories of Orpheus, and accomplishments from your time here?
Aylin: I have so many amazing memories, it's really hard just to pick a few to discuss here. But I think a lot of my favorite memories come from making music together with other students. I was part of a guitar quartet for around five years, and I really enjoyed practicing and performing together.
We played a lot of fun pieces, and one of my favorites was "Kalimba" by Kindle I believe. A kalimba is like an African thumb piano, and so to imitate the sound of a kalimba we each put a handkerchief underneath the strings of our guitar, and I’d never done that technique before, so it was really exciting to try. The piece "Kalimba" is based on like African and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and I really loved exploring different cultures while also learning and playing new rhythms with the quartet.
And last summer, I started Musical Postcards for Seniors to inspire Orpheus students to record concerts for seniors to help ease their isolation during the pandemic. And the dedication of the Orpheus community to do social good through music and the positive feedback from seniors is something that I’ll forever cherish.
Klondike: Yeah, and we'll talk a lot more about the Musical Postcards, that’s such an amazing thing.
But I just want to share with you that one of my cherished memories is when we traveled down to Brownsville together. And we had to rearrange "Kalimba" to fit because one of our members of the quartet couldn't make it, and so you guys all took on the extra burden and you took home first prize in the guitar ensemble competition, the small ensemble. So that was really an added bonus, but the main thing was just sharing that time together, eating out together, traveling together, it's really something I’ll hold close to my heart for my whole life.
Klondike: But you mentioned the Postcards to Seniors-- how did you get the idea to create this amazing program of videos that get sent to retirement communities?
Aylin: So last year when COVID-19 hit, my in-person ensembles, lessons, and concerts came to a halt. My fellow musicians and I found ourselves in a Kafkaesque nightmare: isolated at home, sequestered from each other, and unable to make music together in a surreal new reality.
And meanwhile the media reported dire problems for isolated seniors. And talking with my grandparents, who were quarantining on the Aegean coast of Turkey, I really sensed their gloom in losing human connections. And so to lift up their mood in a Zoom call, I played some classical guitar pieces for them, and it instantly lit up their eyes. I was really exhilarated by that connection.
"Talking with my grandparents, who were quarantining on the Aegean coast of Turkey, I really sensed their gloom in losing human connections. And so to lift up their mood in a Zoom call, I played some classical guitar pieces for them, and it instantly lit up their eyes."
Klondike: Well it was so awesome, and you know I think it's one thing to have an idea-- but you actually took it and put it into action. What did it take to bring that idea to fruition?
Aylin: So I started out by making sample recordings of mini-concerts, and I emailed them to nursing homes. To my surprise, some nursing homes called back immediately to learn more about the idea.
I sensed that my recordings alone would not be sufficient, so I pitched the idea to Orpheus students and invited them to record music and greetings for seniors. And students loved the cause and went out of their way to dress up, practice, and compose new pieces. And I was able to edit the recordings into Musical Postcards, and share the links with nursing homes.
To scale the project up, I reached out to Orpheus leadership and secured support for engaging more students, teachers, and staff. We developed a system where students upload their recordings to Google Drive for a team of teachers to review, and then I would arrange the individual recordings into 10 to 15 minute Musical Postcards. And I collaborated with staff to manage the supply of Musical Postcards and we emailed them to nursing homes weekly.
Klondike: Wow such an amazing operation that just [whoosh!].
"I pitched the idea to Orpheus students and invited them to record music and greetings for seniors. And students loved the cause and went out of their way to dress up, practice, and compose new pieces."
Klondike: So, can you just share with us some of the notable statistics about Postcards to Seniors?
Aylin: Yeah, so our concerts of over 100 students reached over 760 nursing homes in 26 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces, and three Australian states.
Klondike: It just blows me away. It's one of the most impactful initiatives we've ever had at Orpheus, and I just am so grateful that you did that. Not to undercut the amazing work that you've done changing the lives of seniors, but I also want to say, the students themselves that probably were just on their screens all day long-- they need a really good reason to feel like what they're doing has meaning.
Klondike: Can you talk a little bit about your experience changing lives, and then how it felt to see those wonderful videos from the other students?
Aylin: Yeah, so for me, giving back to my community through Musical Postcards gave meaning to my life. We're inherently social beings who crave social connections, and I think our communities can really give us courage, help us overcome life's challenges, and make the journey worthwhile.
So I saw that we could really alleviate social challenges by working together and uniting. And with the help of the Orpheus leadership, students, and teachers, we all worked as a team to put this together, and I think it brought out the best in people and enabled us to stay connected. And hearing the positive feedback from seniors was very meaningful. Many of them commented on how the concerts have brought a smile to their faces and sparked a memory of their own children playing instruments and performing in school concerts.
One senior, I remember he commented like, “I love this so much that I watch it every morning, it gives me hope and brings sunshine to this dark time.” And helping to bring joy to even one person is very meaningful and rewarding.
Klondike: Wow, again it just really touches me so deeply. You may not even be aware of this Aylin, but concurrent with the Musical Postcards, all the teachers and staff at Orpheus were kind of exploring what our deepest values are as an academy, and we decided to settle on “Collaborate, Play, Engage, and Create,” and I think that Musical Postcards-- You just hit on all of them. You came up with a great idea, it was very creative, and then you collaborated with the teachers, staff, and students, and also the people at the nursing homes, to get people playing and get the engagement up. So I’m just so proud of his project.
When Wendy and I started Orpheus like 18 years ago, it was mostly because, even outside of a pandemic, music lessons, classical music lessons particularly, can be a very isolating experience: “Practice by yourself, go to a private teacher, go home and practice what the teacher told you you did wrong, go back for another lesson.” And we wanted the opportunity for kids to come together and be able to be in group classes, and like you said, that experience of playing in ensembles was already really meaningful, and I think that you then took it to this whole new level, which is just so inspiring.
"Our concerts of over 100 students reached over 760 nursing homes in 26 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces, and three Australian states."
Klondike: I wanted to ask you a little bit about your future plans, I hear you're going to Harvard?
Klondike: That's amazing, and tell us a little bit about what you hope to study and research, and maybe even beyond your undergraduate years, what you hope to spend your life doing.
Aylin: So I'm really grateful to have the privilege of attending Harvard, and I'll be studying neuroscience on a pre-med track. So my hope is to become a medical doctor and researcher.
Klondike: Awesome. That's a field that I just find so exciting, I wish I could have had the opportunity to study that.
Klondike: And I know you're going to be so busy at Harvard, but are you gonna try to play guitar a little bit?
Aylin: Yes, you know my life has always had dualities and one that I’ve really embraced over the years is the science and art duality.
And so I definitely want to continue playing classical guitar while I'm studying neuroscience in college. I think expressing myself through music brings me a lot of joy and it's profoundly meaningful to perform and share that joy with others.
Klondike: Wonderful. You know, I don't get the chance to ask this, and be as honest as you can be-- not many students get to see Orpheus for a full 12 years, because you have to get started really young like you did. Have you noticed any changes over the years?
Aylin: Well I think over the years Orpheus has really built a family of engaged students and teachers, who are all eager to learn and develop together. Through private lessons and group musicianship classes, we've learned to read music, play our favorite songs, and create music with friends, and we've also had opportunities to play in public recitals both solo and with friends.
Orpheus has developed so many more initiatives over the years to further its social mission and has also been receptive to the ideas of students like me, and it has just been such a joyful experience and I'm so excited to see how the Orpheus community continues to grow.
Klondike: Well thank you, I'm so glad that they were all positive things. You're not like, “Oh you guys got so big and…” [laughs]. I really hope that as we’ve grown, we grow closer and we get to share more.
"Orpheus has developed so many more initiatives over the years to further its social mission and has also been receptive to the ideas of students like me."
Klondike: Those experiences of being a family, or the challenges that you overcame at Orpheus, are there any of those that you wanted to highlight that helped you in your amazing journey?
Aylin: Yeah, well I think Orpheus has not only taught me music, but also fundamental life skills such as self-discipline, grit, and self-esteem. And those skills have really helped me thus far in my education, and I'll carry them with me to college and beyond.
I think Orpheus has also taught me to follow my passions and collaborate to achieve meaningful goals, and really use my talents and capabilities to benefit society. And that has really inspired me to make a positive social impact wherever I go, and do it with love.
Klondike: Well that's exactly what I would want for any student. You really exemplify what we would like all students to take away.
Klondike: Do you have any advice for younger students about how they can make positive change happen?
Aylin: Yeah, well I would say no matter what your age is, you can definitely create positive change. If there's a cause that you're passionate about, even if people tell you that you're too young and you can't make an impact, I promise your opinions matter. And you can take action now to make a difference. So my advice would be to be proactive and ask for help when you need it. There's really no shame in asking for help, in fact it's a sign of strength.
I would recommend finding a mentor who inspires you and is available to support you, reach out to people in your community and online like on social media who share your vision and collaborate with them, but do so with your parents permission to be safe. And read relevant books and credible articles about the cause you're interested in.
I also want to emphasize that, while it can be great to have a big vision, it's okay and normal to start out small, see where the project goes, and then gradually expand it. And you don't have to do this alone. There's so many people to help, I'm one of them, and there might also be teachers, family, or friends who are willing. So take advantage of all the opportunities and support around you to do social good.
"If there's a cause that you're passionate about, even if people tell you that you're too young and you can't make an impact, I promise your opinions matter. And you can take action now to make a difference."
Klondike: Well thank you so much Aylin, and I know you've already inspired so many, and you will continue to do so as you go out into the world and make a big, big difference. So thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you've given to Orpheus!
Aylin: I couldn't have done it without the Orpheus community, so thank you so much Orpheus. Thank you!
I really enjoy playing Guitar. It sounds great, and the new songs that I am learning are awesome! It is really fun learning with Mr.Doug, because he teaches well and makes everything I learn easily understandable.
I am nominating Akshar for Student of the Month because he is consistently prepared, works super hard, and is always excited about guitar. Akshar and I recorded his Level 2 project earlier in the semester, and he also just took his Level 3 Musical Journey Test and did extremely well! Each and every week, Akshar shows up to lessons ready to go, and we have been able to make steady progress for years because of this. He also thoroughly enjoys music, and is often playing pieces that he teaches himself. I am so excited to see where his musical journey takes him. Congrats Akshar!
I love music because it helps me express my feelings. I like to make my own compositions and I enjoy performing music for others, especially my family.
Micah Gervey has been a very disciplined and talented student. His piano playing is improving day by day, specially musicianship. His piano lessons are always very productive and exciting!
I like music because it sounds Amazing! Singing and humming let me make music even without a piano! I love to play my piano and sing along! My favorite song I ever learned was Whirling Leaves! It sounds so beautiful!
Micah is an incredibly enthusiastic and dedicated student. She has shown great patience in her learning, taking into account that she started lessons at Orpheus during the middle of the pandemic. I look forward to meeting Micah when we go back in person!
I love music because it really relaxes me and makes me smile. I want to make the world a better place one song at a time!!
Sahana has been steadily building her musical theater repertoire with great enthusiasm. At the beginning of the Spring semester, she prepared intensively for the Hal Leonard Musical Theater online competition and made it to the semi-finalist list! She is working hard to hone her vocal and musicianship skills, and I love to see her creativity shine from lesson to lesson.
Solan started learning the guitar from Mr. Jeremy a few months ago and has really flourished from a shy young man to quite the little performer. He loves playing for others every opportunity he gets. When asked what he likes best about learning guitar at Orpheus, Solan says "I love the color of my guitar! My favorite part is learning new notes and the songs I'm learning with Mr. Jeremy. It's very very fun!" -Solan
Solan has been working very diligently in his practice to reach our goals. He has been giving weekly performances for his family and shows constant growth in his playing and musical understanding. He has amazing questions and comes into the lessons each week with great enthusiasm and a drive to learn. His sense of humor and personality is top notch. Solan’s curiosity is inspiring!
The Composer Showcase is our annual, one-of-a-kind event to celebrate Orpheus student composers and their original compositions! Over 20 students participated this year, sharing their unique pieces and performances, along with the accompanying words, pictures, or artwork they've used to bring their songs to life.
We're so proud of the thoughtful way in which these student composers reflect on the meaning of music, and the creativity and artistry they regularly demonstrate.
Check out the student compositions and visual elements from this showcase in the video below, and in this interactive e-book!
We're excited to celebrate students who graduated this semester, whether it be our high school seniors, or those who earned their Maestro of Musicianship award by completing our Musicianship Program! These students put together special performances and words of reflection to commemorate their graduations in this incredible recital.
We’re so proud of all that these students have accomplished throughout their education at Orpheus Academy. They have performed in amazing concerts, composed beautiful music, mastered challenging techniques and musical concepts, collaborated with friends in ensembles, and some have even performed at Carnegie Hall! Perhaps most amazingly though, these students have persevered and accomplished so much through this past year in a time that has been difficult for all of us. They've stuck with practice and grown their skills even when it's been challenging, and have used the power of music to brighten the lives of others.
A big congratulations to all of our graduates!
The Friendship Concerts are all about collaboration, as Orpheus students, friends, and families team up to make music together. These performers engaged in a long process to perfect their pieces, and spent weeks practicing, giving each other feedback, and creatively solving problems. After trying, making mistakes, and trying again, these musicians have succeeded in creating awesome performances that we're excited to share with you!
With these concerts being virtual, many students also took advantage of the opportunity to explore their creativity in unique ways. We asked them to explain how each song sparked their imagination, and some students even submitted a visual element to accompany their performance.
Watch these special concerts and celebrate the Orpheus community!
Sophie is an extroverted piano student who has found music lessons and life in general to be more challenging without in-person interaction. With her mom Sarah's help, Sophie discovered new ways to connect with other students, make new friends, and create meaningful performances and experiences online.
Georgia, Sophie’s piano teacher, took the time to speak with Sophie and Sarah about Sophie’s initiative, and how online education platforms can be used for significant connection and collaboration.
Georgia: Sophie, how old are you and how long have you been taking piano lessons?
Sophie: I'm 11 years old and I've been playing piano for six years, so I started when I was five with my mom and then I moved to you.
Georgia: What was the process of when you had to transition from in-person lessons to online lessons?
Sophie: Because of COVID I couldn't really see you, so I wouldn't see you every week in person. It's hard at home because there's a lot of background noises, because the piano’s right next to the kitchen.
But I'm really glad that we could still have Zoom.
Georgia: Sarah, what would you say was the most challenging thing about transitioning to online lessons?
Sarah: I think for Sophie in particular it was hard for her not to get out of the house and be with people and to work on the Friendship Concerts. It's probably her favorite thing, is working with people, and so we've had a couple frustrating moments with trying to put duets together.
But we learned from the process. There was a lot of back and forth, you know, there’s just a lag time. So we've learned, since we've been doing this for a while now, how to keep it simple. And do things like how you suggested. Like let's just make one recording that they both can play together with, so it's steady, and then we can work from there.
And then there's some video editing that has to go into it as well that helps, that makes us feel like, “Okay, this isn't too terrible.” [laughs] “It’s not too hard, it came together at the end.”
I think you have your similar challenges when you're in person too. I think that's one of the most challenging things about being a musician is playing in an ensemble, and when they get a little bit older it's so good for them. It's good for them to be challenged… You have to use your ears more, and you have to adapt, and you have to be flexible, and I think those are all things that we've learned a lot about this year.
Georgia: Well it's so funny, I've been working on a duet for the Faculty Concert that's coming up, and I'm playing the duet with myself, and even that is hard [laughs]. I go to the video editing and I think, “Okay, I played with the metronome for the first video, I played with myself for the second video,” and when I get to the editing software it doesn't line up! It’s like, "What happened?"
Sarah: Yeah. You have to let go of some perfectionist tendencies also and be okay with it, and say, “Okay, you know we did the best we could,” and I think people understand. It's not meant to be a perfect production, it's just, you know it's a new learning experience, so I think that's good for the kids overall.
"Music I think is one thing that has really flourished a lot since our kids have been home."
Georgia: Sophie, what new technologies and technical skills do you feel like you've learned by doing online lessons?
Sophie: I had to pay attention a little bit more and listen, because I wasn't right next to you. And I also had to learn how to put all my duets and stuff together.
Georgia: Yeah! What was your motivation to learn all those new skills?
Sophie: I think it's really cool-- well especially with the duets, where I get to meet new friends that I haven't met before. And practice with them.
Georgia: Yes, well I've been super grateful to you in particular with the way you responded to my Flipgrid. And the way that you not only posted so many videos of yourself playing songs, but you've also been just such a source of encouragement for my other students, like when they see comments from you, they talk about it all week, and when they see your videos. They'll even ask me sometimes, “Did Sophie make a new Flipgrid this week?”
So that's been a really neat, special community that I never would have imagined before COVID all started and shut us down in normal circumstances. I think in some ways, more of my piano students know you now than they did before.
Georgia: How have you shared your music online? What platforms have you used to share your music?
Sophie: I’ve used Flipgrid mostly, like where I get to share pieces and meet with your other students, and then the Flipgrid from Musicianship that we also get to do.
Georgia: That's good. It's helpful to still be able to reach out and feel like other people exist beyond our home walls.
Georgia: Do you have any tips for other people who might be new to using Flipgrid?
Sophie: Well if you're using Flipgrid, then you should try to focus on what your goal is, so playing your piece. Because sometimes I focus too much on all the effects and stuff.
Georgia: All the effects are so cool though. I've actually watched your videos and some of my other student videos and I've honestly learned so much from you guys, because I feel like you are more inclined to just explore and investigate all the filters.
Georgia: Could you share a story about how you used Flipgrid to interact and stay in touch with another student and play duets?
Sophie: With Malka, since we're doing the Friendship Concert together and we're playing pieces, we've never really seen each other in person, but you introduced us to each other, and I got her phone number so we could stay in touch and every Friday or so we get together and talk about piano or just life.
Georgia: That's so cool. It's like this year has been really fun in that regard for me too, because I have these students, like you and Malka would be a great example. For years, I’ve thought you two guys should get together, and there's some way you needed to know each other, but your schools are completely different, you live on complete opposite sides of the city. And so it's been really neat to watch you guys get to know each other finally.
Georgia: Now last semester, when we did the Friendship Concert, you worked so hard with a violinist to get that [recorded]. Can you describe some of the things that you guys did over Flipgrid to stay in touch and to make that concert piece come together?
Sophie: Yeah, we gave each other a lot of advice, like just recorded some short videos on Flipgrid. And yeah, I knew her a little bit from dance, but I got to know her better with doing that piece together.
Georgia: Well that was really cool. And then, you even edited that video together right?
Georgia: I think that's amazing!
Sophie: Yeah, it was a little bit challenging since there was two different instruments and we were at kind of different levels, but we put it together and it sounded really good.
Georgia: Yeah, it absolutely sounded great.
Sophie: We couldn't wait to put it together because we wanted to hear what it sounded like.
Georgia: Yeah. In a way the Friendship Concert this year-- it's like a gift because so many people have never heard their two parts come together as one whole. I almost more eagerly await the Friendship Concert, because even I haven't heard the two pieces put together until the concert actually airs.
Georgia: Why do you enjoy playing and sharing music with other people?
Sophie: I think it's fun to give suggestions for other people and receive feedback, and showing your really good pieces off to other friends and stuff.
One example that I wanted to tell is that I've had like one or two pieces that I've heard people play on your Flipgrid that I really wanted to play, and I play them now. So yeah, I got some really good pieces from them.
Georgia: Yeah, I always find it so amazing when you come to your lesson and you're like, “Hey, I heard Kent playing “Take Five,” can I learn that? That was great!”
It's just such a neat thing. I think that we like our music better when we care about the music we're making, and feel more motivated to work harder when we like what we're playing. And so that's always been this thing for me as a teacher, is to find the right pieces.
But when someone like you goes out to Flipgrid and just listens to everybody, and then you come to me with those ideas, it's awesome. I love it.
Georgia: Why do you think music is such a good tool to connect and collaborate with others?
Sophie: One time we did this thing called Postcards for Seniors where we all recorded a few pieces and then Orpheus sent them to a home for seniors. I knew they would really enjoy it.
Georgia: Yeah, that's so neat. I think just being able to watch the videos anytime anywhere is just such a neat thing. I think that has so much flexibility.
Georgia: Sarah, does Sophie share her music with you and your family?
Sarah: Music is always in our family, so my husband and I both play music and we have a music room and our house is always filled with music.
Sophie does a really good job sharing her music. At home, I mean music I think is one thing that has really flourished a lot since our kids have been home. And it's been a huge benefit just having the time and capacity and margin to play, to sit at the piano and play. So there's people hopping on and off and on and off.
I feel like the kids go up to the piano and play all the time, like when they're not asked to just because they like what they're playing, and they've been playing duets together and they call each other to “Come over to the piano and play with me.”
Georgia: I think that's so cool. That's just what music should be, is family hanging out around the piano and playing together, and I think historically that's what pianos were. So I love that that's a part of your modern family too.
Georgia: Sophie, I know you have two brothers who also play the piano. Have you had a chance to collaborate with them more, since you guys have all been at home?
Sophie: Yeah, we did a lot of mixes or duets and trios, and also we included me, Jeremy, Gabe, and Susie on a recording and it was fun to be able to play on the same piano.
Georgia: Yes, definitely.
Sarah: I mean it takes time to get there though. You know, when you have really young kids there's a lot more hand holding and a lot more discipline that has to go into making sure it becomes a daily part of your routine.
But as they're older, we've got some teens and preteens in the house now and so, for their birthday they'll get a-- like we gave Gabe a cajón, and he doesn't play a percussion instrument, but it was so fun because everybody wanted to learn how to play it. So it's neat to just have things around, opportunities for them to try something new. And since we have the time at home, it's neat for them to be able to just sort of play off each other and enjoy music together.
"Orpheus having so many online events provides such a wonderful platform for people to share with each other and helps with that goal setting."
Georgia: Sarah, how have you seen Sophie's musical ability specifically develop over time?
Sarah: Well she loves having lessons with you, first of all.
Georgia: Aw, thank you.
Sarah: A big part of it is you've been a good friend to her, as well as a teacher, and she just enjoys seeing you and so that's been a huge blessing.
I think being home too, just because she is such a people person, she wants to connect with people. She's had the challenge of setting some goals for herself like, “What can I accomplish in this next week?” or “How long will it take me?” Because we've learned, if we spend too much time just playing, playing, playing, and we don't really know where it's going, then we'll end up playing the same piece for eight weeks and it gets kind of tiring, and then it's hard to persevere through those things.
So I think for her she's done better when she's found pieces she really enjoys, and then sets little goals for herself and says, “Let's accomplish this, let's finish this, and let's start a new piece in two weeks.” I think that's helped a little bit.
Georgia: Yeah definitely, and I think Orpheus having so many online events provides such a wonderful platform for people to share with each other and helps with that goal setting. It's like, “Well here comes Postcards for Seniors, let's do that. Oh, here comes Friendship Concert, let's do that.”
Sarah: Even just having a performance class, or just saying, “Your lesson is coming up, let's see if you can learn all the notes and rhythms up to this page for Tuesday.” Even little goals like that have been helpful.
Georgia: Being that connecting and collaborating with other musicians is so important to Sophie, when did you see this start to develop in her musical education?
Sarah: This girl takes the initiative, so she bugs me a lot if I'm not on top of things like, “Mom, did you text this person's mom? Mom, did you call her? Can we set up a time?” And so that helps. And I can tell what she's excited about, I can tell that she likes to work with people, she likes people a lot.
I think Sophie's at the age where she's been able to take some independence with accomplishing a goal and accomplishing a piece with somebody, and she's become pretty proficient with Flipgrid and things like that. That's been helpful because she helps her younger brother and sister a lot with Flipgrid also, and so I say, “Sophie, go!” [laughs] “Jeremy’s got to turn something in, so can you go help him take a video?”
Georgia: Would you have any advice that you would give for other parents in creating or finding safe social opportunities online?
Sarah: Everyone's got a different perspective on what's safe out there I guess, and so it's always best just to connect with the parents first and see how involved they want to be. I mean as parents we just know, “Okay our kids, in our minds, they have this goal. They need to accomplish this piece.” Or, “We've been told that they need to perform this together, so how are we going to do it?”
It's easy to put two kids on a device and say, “Go at it!” and then nothing really happens, or it's hard, and it can get really frustrating. And so I had to step in and just help a little bit, and help with the recording, and tell her what to communicate with the friend and say, “Let's just work on this part.” Or “Let's see if we can play along to this same recording and then we'll put it together for you.”
Of course, it just depends on how old the kids are and how much they want to do.
"Give comments and advice to your partner, and don't be afraid to receive some yourself, or for your friend to correct you."
Georgia: Sophie, you have shown so much initiative in sharing and meeting up with other students. What advice would you give to a student who maybe wants to do that, but hasn’t figured out quite how yet?
Sophie: To give comments and advice to your partner, and don't be afraid to receive some yourself, or for your friend to correct you.
Georgia: Yeah, that is so important. I know, like when I was younger, I had it in my mind that anytime anybody told me any kind of constructive criticism I would take it really personally and be like, “Oh no, they think I'm not good.” So I love that you shared that advice about hearing other people's responses and feedback as an encouragement and a way to grow.
Georgia: Sarah, what strategies would you say you've learned from this period of online lessons that maybe you'll take with you and keep doing even when life goes back to in person again?
Sarah: I think first of all, probably going back to the goal setting. I think when all of the normal activities start pouring in it's going to feel like we can't do everything again. So I’ve enjoyed the restful period where we don't— I'm not in my van all day, dropping kids off and picking them up. And we actually have time to practice.
So it's just being able to plan ahead and set some goals. I mean it's just like with anything, you know it could be a sport, it could be your dance, or whatever it is...
Music is something that’s always going to be a life lesson sort of thing. I don't know if it's something they'll carry with them forever, take lessons forever, that's less important to me. It's more that whatever avenue they're learning, just to work hard and set some goals, and then being able to accomplish them and feel good about it.
"Music is something that’s always going to be a life lesson sort of thing."
Sarah: It's sort of something you have to grow into… they're getting used to like being on camera, for example. Like this is not really a big deal for Sophie to be on camera because she's had to do it all year long with her school and then her teachers.
You know you kind of take what you're given. It's not the best situation this year, it's been tough for everybody in some ways, but they've just learned to adapt and try something new and figure out how to go along the way, and kind of make lemonade out of the lemons.
Georgia: Well thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to do this interview and to just kind of chat.
Sarah: Kudos to you for making it through a really tough period, and I know there's gonna be some more challenges ahead, but yeah you've done a really good job teaching these kids even though you're limited in what you can see and hear, but you've kept her motivated so that's good.
Georgia: Yay! Excellent. [laughs]
Music is a very versatile thing, as there are so many things you can do with it. I love music for this reason. This versatility gives me so much potential to learn in both the electric and classical guitar fields. In other words, there are so many different "genres" of music in the genres of electric and classical music. In electric, there are many, many bands, and certain bands have certain playing styles which can be hard to master. In classical, factors like time period, nationality of the composer, and the composer themself all play an immense role in the resulting piece. This versatility also makes it fun. Every new song will be different, and it is much more fun to learn different material. If you learn one song over and over again, it will get boring, but if you learn new material, it will always be really fun.
When I came to Orpheus over a year ago, I disliked classical music. I found it boring and way too hard to master the fingering. I like the fact that I was pushed to go out of my comfort zone and learn classical guitar. Learning classical guitar also helped me refine finger technique on electric guitar, as well.
My teacher, Mr. Wyatt has played such a huge role in helping me learn new songs and refine my technique. He is an awesome teacher who can really encourage as well as make lessons really fun. Thank you. -Avaneesh
Avaneesh has been a constant hard working student since he started taking lessons here about a year and a half ago. Over this time, he has developed fingerstyle skills that he never had while also furthering his electric guitar picking techniques to new heights. Any lesson with Avaneesh is exciting due to how much material he comes prepared with between the 2 main genres that we cover. I am also extremely proud of how he has handled his approach to playing and lessons during the pandemic by seeing the idea of being home more as an opportunity to practice and listen to music even more than he did while things were normal. As he hits the ground running with high school in the Fall, I am very excited to see how the guitar will continue to be such a defining and ever improving part of his life. -Mr. Wyatt
I like playing on the piano so that I can learn new songs. -Ayaan
Ayaan has made so much progress with me and has only been taking lessons for one month! I'm so proud of how hard he has been working and love his curiosity and excitement for music! -Mr. Mike
I love music and singing because it relaxes me. Music makes me feel free, calm, and happy. Since I was a baby, I loved to sing! Also, music has become a very important part of my life. Best of all was joining Orpheus Academy of music and having the best singing teachers in the world! ( Ms. Chelsea and Ms. Jessica)! Thank you Orpheus Academy for helping me to achieve my goals! -Jena
I chose Jena for Student of the Month because of her infectiously positive attitude and eagerness to learn and make music. She brings so much energy and enthusiasm to all her lessons and performances! Jena is incredibly open to feedback, always excited to try new challenges, and never shies away from putting in hard work! It is such a delight to work with Jena - thank you for sharing your voice! -Ms. Chelsea
I love music—it makes me happy and I enjoy stretching my voice and learning new songs! -Krishna
I am thrilled to nominate Krishna for Student of the Month! Krishna comes to every lesson very well prepared and eager to jump right in. She brings a tremendous amount of energy and focus, and she takes great initiative in spotting areas where she'd like to make improvements and practices those areas thoughtfully. As a result, she has already grown so much in our short time together! You should be very proud of the work you are doing, Krishna! Thank you for sharing your voice with the Orpheus community.