Manuel Lozano is the owner of local music school, South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy, located in a sweet, converted Craftsman house on Fremont Avenue. As news of Covid-19 was changing daily last month, Lozano was in discussions with the academy teachers and staff about how they could best serve their students while keeping everyone safe. “At first we were thinking we could give people the option of taking their classes online or coming into the studio, but of course then it became clear pretty quickly that for the safety of both the teachers and students we wouldn’t be able to do that,” explains Lozano, “so we got on the phone with all of our teachers, giving them the option to work from the school or at home. For us it’s always about what makes the teachers comfortable and what makes the students comfortable so when we found out that the world we were living in was changing we had to figure out how to keep going.”
The majority of music schools stopped all classes that first week but the academy was able to pivot immediately to all online instruction, at first using any and all platforms to make that happen. Now they are using Zoom exclusively as well as the educational platform LessonMate. There are a few teachers using the studios to teach from because their home didn’t have all they needed and Lozano had told his teachers that the school is always their second home.
Lozano is grateful, more than anything, that they were able to continue providing the students with their classes and that creative connection without missing a beat. He explains, “we primarily do one on one lessons so it’s not as difficult as say dance studios or large group acting classes or group singing classes: it was easier for us to make this transition.”
Only about 15% of their students have paused their lessons and Lozano hopes at least half of those, once the lessons resume in person, will come back. “We’ve even picked up new students,” he enthuses, “and what’s interesting is that some of our students have asked us if these online classes could be an option as a backup when they can’t make it to class because of a trip or illness. So that’s been an interesting thing because we didn’t know if people would like this but what the reaction has shown is that students want to continue learning.”
The teachers say it’s been an adjustment and is, in many ways, much harder. Lozano says he has spoken to each teacher and that they all tell him they are exhausted at the end of the day. They teach the same number of lessons but they are speaking twice as much because they can’t simply demonstrate or place the student’s hands on the instrument. “We’ve now had a month to adjust and I would say overall I’m very happy, I feel super grateful that our teachers are continuing to make a living, and even more importantly the students are learning.”
Lacey Jo Benter, who teaches voice, guitar/uke & drums, says “online music education can be just as impactful and valuable as in person learning can be. With the right tools and a willingness to learn, the same if not more progress can be made in this new paradigm. My teaching has only improved with the move to online lessons as I’ve found new and exciting ways to get both kids and adults enthusiastic about music in general, in addition to their specific instruments.”
Many students have started songwriting and getting more creative with arrangements and Lozano says the distance learning encourages students to use a different muscle in their brain. “It’s more difficult to be attentive for 30 minutes to an hour when you’re not in a studio space with your teacher and we’ve had to instruct the students on the best positions for their computer camera so that the teacher can see what they’re doing ; so it’s been a learning process for both the teachers and students,” he says.
Lacey Jo’s student, 17 year-old Ella, tells us that the transition to online has been almost seamless, “we didn’t skip a beat between lessons and all the people at South Pasadena Arts and Music Academy have been very helpful in facilitating the transition. Lacey Jo still finds a way to make the lessons just as entertaining with the new format.”
Lozano expressed deep gratitude for all of the families who have continued their lessons and supported their small business. “We’re here for them for whatever they need. We now have this new software, LessonMate, which is a repository for information and a great way to communicate for the teachers. They can upload all the information pertinent to the lesson from sheet music to notes, vocal warm-ups, links, and videos for the student to access at home.” He goes on to say, “this whole process has taught us that there’s a whole other world out there that we need to consider. I don’t know when we’ll go back to in person lessons. I’m hoping May or June but of course we don’t know and we don’t know what’s going to happen in September, October even. If you had asked me two months ago, I would have said we’ll never do online lessons; people like coming to the school, they like the experience of being in a learning space, but we live in a different world now. I can’t wait to get back in the school but in the meantime we have to be flexible and offer that as an option for our students.”
Lozano says thoughtfully, “these moments create opportunity, so we’re looking at it as an opportunity to grow and create in new ways. It’s also a way for us to continue some normalcy and human connection.” Lozano balances the demands of the business along with an acting career and raising his 7 year old daughter, Iris, and says that as a parent he sees what that kind of connection gives his own daughter. He tells us “she continues her piano and singing classes online and I tell you, I see her during and after she has those classes and she’s so happy. It’s when we don’t have activities at home, when we don’t have human interaction that things get difficult so I’m grateful that we have that, both as an owner of a music school and as a parent because it’s a really nice resource. We live in challenging times so anything we can do to keep that connection to the things that we love… I think that’s going to help a lot in the long run.”
South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy is located at 803 Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena. For more information visit their website at artsmusicacademy.com or call (626) 808-4031.