When the pandemic struck NYC, every performance venue in the city immediately and indefinitely cancelled their events. It was the right move, of course; however, for our music school, it meant a lot of changes.
Riverside Music Studios is fortunate to have some of the most encouraging and motivating music teachers in NYC. Our teachers were able to pivot quickly to online music lessons and provide our students the ability to study music virtually.
Due to this, our students – both children and adults – didn’t lose their momentum. In the new reality of social distancing we were (and still are) proud to see students working as hard as they had been prior to the pandemic. Everyone continued to improve on their existing pieces and learned new music. We were happy to be able to keep making beautiful music together!
Still, the event that we all look forward to – that last celebratory moment of sharing musical achievements with family and friends -would be missing this year. At first, Zoom recitals seemed to be too far of a stretch from the “normal” experience of playing in public. For a time, we held out hope that we would still be able to hold our end of year performance in person.
Time passed and the last glimmer of hope for performance venues re-opening in the summer began to disappear. It became clear that we would have to forget about our upcoming student recitals at the Symphony Space and Steinway Hall. For the first time in over 10 years we were not going to finish our semester with a series of live performances in amazing concert halls and on such fantastic instruments as Steinway 9ft grand pianos.
There is a phenomenon in the world of professional musicians: if you don’t have a deadline for a specific performance where you need to play the piece that you are learning, you will never 100% learn that piece. Even the best musicians tend to avoid the final push that every piece requires to be ready for a public performance, so these pieces become forever half-learned. Similarly, both children and adult music students tend to relax in their practicing before the piece is fully ready, and even after months of hard work, without a concrete deadline, they stop short of the finish line and never cross it! This is why it is so important to have regularly scheduled performance goals. A virtual recital was a necessity!
Our music teachers weren’t the only ones thinking about this problem. The parents and the students themselves started asking about virtual recitals. So we said, “Let’s try it! How hard can it be to get everyone on Zoom together? Surely only a handful of students will sign up for this unorthodox experience.”
And it turns out – EVERYONE wanted to participate! At our music school, we don’t require all students to perform. There are many students enrolled who are happily making music just for themselves. Of those who normally play at the live recitals, nearly every student wanted to take part. In the end, we had just as many virtual performers as we normally had perform at in-person concerts before.
The logistics of running a virtual recital were different and there was a learning curve with technology, but despite all the challenges, we organized 11 recitals that ran for the entire weekend!
Children were excited to perform, adults were proud to share their music with their friends, and the teachers and administrators were happy that everything ran smoothly!
The students were well prepared for our virtual recital. They played beautifully! We emailed everyone digital certificates, took a whole bunch of screenshots (with permission), and in the end, we all enjoyed hours of great performances that marked the end of months and months of hard but satisfying work in music lessons.
Congratulations to everyone who participated! Music is a powerful force to help us in challenging times.
Stay safe and healthy!