Thunderbirds Charities Supports Students Online Music Learning During The Covid-19 Shutdown.

May 26, 2020

Phoenix, Arizona

In the last two months, PCM provided students in the College Prep Program over 300 hours of online ensembles, music theory classes and enrichment classes and over 200 hours of private music lessons; all online.

Despite Metrocenter Mall, home of Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM), closing its doors temporarily on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and PCM not re-opening its facilities until this summer, PCM’s music education lessons and classes haven’t missed a beat. PCM staff and teaching artists got to work immediately setting up and using unique links via Zoom for all students enrolled in private lessons and College Prep Program classes, with no disruption in services.

PCM serves more than 2,000 students annually, mostly from low-income families and Title 1 schools. Executive Director, Regina Nixon, is passionate about continuing services to these vulnerable students stating, “It is more important now than ever to have continuity and a sense of normalcy for students. Socially and emotionally it is important to have routine and community. We need to allow our young people to ‘vibe with their tribe’ and engage in learning with their music mentors. Our purpose is more critical now than ever.”

Music lessons are typically up close and personal, with teaching artists and students sitting in close proximity. Offering professional development to teaching artists so they can continue to provide high-quality music education using new technology and embrace remote learning was the first step. PCM College Prep Program Manager, Josh Bennett, created video tutorials and step-by-step instructions on how teachers can navigate remote learning through Zoom, Google Hang and Google Classroom.

Nearly 90 percent of families have remained enrolled in PCM music lessons and students are now logging in on their tablets, smart phones and computers to keep their music education alive. Hundreds of remote private lessons in piano, guitar, voice, violin and other instruments are being joined by more than 30 classes a week in music theory, songwriting and PCM’s award-winning College Prep Program produced in conjunction with the Berklee College of Music’s City Music Network.

Thunderbirds Charities is a supporter of this program and has helped make it possible for these students to continue their learning online.  In the last two months, PCM provided students in the College Prep Program over 300 hours of online ensembles, music theory classes and enrichment classes and over 200 hours of private music lessons; all online.

And this support is so critical.  Music is a natural stress reliever. Voice student, Cece Gleba, knows first-hand the healing power of music: “I can’t live without music, it’s like oxygen for me…I’ve been working on writing a song about my depression and it’s actually helped me a lot.”

“As a parent you’re always looking for programs that not only teach your kids things, but enables them to grow,” says PCM parent Michael Gleba Sr. “You can say that they’ve grown musically, but they’ve also grown in maturity. {PCM} is instilling in them necessary character traits that will help them well into adulthood and it’s going to carry them for the rest of their lives.”

Research shows that even prior to the COVID-19 health crisis, the youth in our community were suffering from anxiety and depression and becoming more isolated and suffering as a result.  Now with this crisis and enforced social distancing, our young people are feeling these anxieties more than ever. 

“Young people will need to maintain positive connections with others and have opportunities to engage in something they love to reduce stress, fear and release dopamine into the brain. Making music is something that is good for their hearts, minds and souls,” says Nixon.

“Some days when I came to PCM I wasn’t in the best mood, but everyone said, ‘we’re a family’ and they really pushed me to be a better person and a better musician,” says Cece. “This is my safe space.”

PCM is committed to serving its students with remote learning throughout the crisis and beyond. “Young people use technology all the time and they are very comfortable with these mediums,” says Regina Nixon. “The new technical skills our teaching artists are learning are showing us efficiencies and techniques that will serve us well and enhance all of our programs even after this crisis is over. We feel we are on the cutting edge of creative youth development and high-quality music instruction through technology and our already rock-solid curricula.” Thunderbirds Charities recognizes the work that Phoenix Conservatory of Music is doing in our community and awarded them with a $10,000 grant to support PCM’s College Prep Program during the 2019-2020 school year.  This is just a small reflection of the great work that is being done and has been done by Thunderbirds Charities in our valley

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