Staying sharp: Virtual lessons keep Basie Center Conservatory students on key


Gerd Nowaczyk
Piano instructor Gerd Nowaczyk conducts a virtual lesson from a Basie center Conservatory classroom

It’s not just K-12 classrooms adjusting to virtual learning this week. At the Count Basie Center’s Conservatory, music lessons have gone interactive, with instructors offering an array of lessons to students via conference call sites, private meeting software – anything to keep performances sharp.

Quoting the violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz, Conservatory director Dr. Lucy Chen notes, If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”

“The pursuit of greatness in music often translates into persistence, grit, and aspiration – all of which are key to successes later in life,” Chen continues.  “But it all starts with dedication and practice.”

Several of the Basie Conservatory instructors have resorted to teaching students virtually – paying attention to mandates against social gathering while maintaining the organization’s dedication to arts education.

“Like all parents, keeping our students engaged over the next few weeks will be a challenge,” says Yvonne Lamb-Scudiery, Vice President of Education at the Basie Center. “Yet, maintaining motivation is of utmost importance, and we’re  excited to offer virtual learning opportunities. We hope to continue to create additional interactive arts experiences, and perhaps engage new students and families in the process.”

“Our virtual lessons capabilities have excellent video and audio quality,” says strings instructor Laura Petillo. “So much, in fact, that my students could hear the subtle changes in pitch on our violins and clap rhythms with me. Each was able to follow directions just as they would in a standard lesson, and play with confidence seeing me there.”

“As we adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, we might not be able to interact with our teachers in person for a while, but our “virtual studios” have allowed us to continue the rigor of our musical studies, and soon we’ll add virtual recitals to present our hard work.”

“I am confident,” Dr. Chen concludes, “that as these difficult days eventually come to an end, we will be thankful that we remained focused on education, and continued to pursue the arts, which carry so much value in these emotionally difficult times.”