Keeping young musicians sharp

In order to keep young musicians sharp with schools out of session due to COVID-19, Southern Arkansas University music majors offered free 25-minute lessons to 9th-12th graders via Skype, Facetime or Zoom.

Student-teachers in the Music Education program reached out to high school students and provided online instruction aimed at maintaining instrumentation as well as sharpening the music education majors teaching skills.

Acknowledging the difficulty presented by school closures resulting from the worldwide pandemic, J.P. Wilson, director of Mulerider bands, said the program offered high school students the opportunity to keep up their musicianship by participating in online instruction.

He said that since the inception of the program in March, as many as 60 students across three states – Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana – participated weekly. Many of these students as well as their SAU student instructors agreed to continue the lessons through the summer.

Students were allowed to sign up via a Google Docs link available on the SAU Band’s Facebook page. Lesson instructors reached out to interested students via email to assign lesson times.

“Any student anywhere can access our Facebook page and the Google sign-up document and take advantage of these lessons,” Wilson said.

Free Zoom clinics in April gave students the opportunity to hear firsthand from innovative, creative and world-renowned artists. These clinics allowed the students to learn new techniques and continue to advance their own musicianship, even without face-to-face instruction.

Nina Martinez, a sophomore from Greenbrier, Arkansas, and Derik Camp, from Elkins, Arkansas, were among the student- teachers organizing and preparing

the service. They put together a GroupMe with the music majors they selected. “Once we started
to share the opportunity with schools and really put the word out there, we were getting kids signing up daily,” Martinez said. “Every day, I checked email and assigned the students to lesson instructors.”

Via email they asked students what they wanted to achieve and the best times for lessons. “I can’t thank the lesson instructors enough for giving up their time to help these students,” Martinez said.

“Sharing my passion for music with younger students, whether it be in person or over a Zoom call, was incredible. I loved seeing how students still want to push themselves as musicians and I was happy to help them,” she said.

Wilson explained that the online instruction inspired hopeful Muleriders and helped keep their spirits up.

Classes were recorded and made available via Mulerider Band social media and YouTube, so that instruction was only a click away. “We want these kids to keep firing on all cylinders,” Wilson said.

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