Local music schools get creative in the wake of COVID-19

By Kamala Kirk

When COVID-19 first prompted the lockdowns back in March, Green Brooms Music Academy in Santa Monica and South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy (SPAMA) in South Pasadena immediately pivoted to a virtual format with their music lessons and recitals.

Gyllian Morris Lozano, owner of Green Brooms, reached out to every client to secure their spots in the schedule and organize their preferred virtual platform. She loaned instruments to teachers and worked to help them quickly launch their home teaching studios.

“Our teachers began teaching from their homes via Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and Skype,” Gyllian says. “The instructors have adapted their teaching methods to fit this new platform and we are finding new ways all the time to teach better, more engaging and effective online lessons. Our clients have been really happy with the quality of the lessons and I hear nothing but grateful parents, happy students and positive feedback from every member of our music community.”

Manuel Lozano, owner of SPAMA, adds, “We basically pivoted overnight—it was definitely an adjustment for everyone, but we wanted to ensure that everyone was comfortable and we wanted to continue providing music lessons to give people the human connection they need. I would never have thought that we’d teach online lessons, but it’s been one of those challenges that has turned out to be a win for everyone and a lot of our students are thriving off it.”

Formerly the same company, Green Brooms (founded in 2008) and SPAMA (founded in 2013) are now separately owned and run, although both schools still share procedures, methods, teachers and systems. Manuel and Gyllian started Green Brooms together, then he expanded to open a second school in South Pasadena (formerly Green Brooms South Pasadena). Both schools offer music instruction to students of all ages taught by trained instructors and professional musicians, and include private as well as ensemble and group classes.

“We share a ton of ideas, collaborate on challenges as they arise and always have each other’s backs when issues come up or we need help with anything,” Gyllian says. “When something works in one location, we always share it with each other; when something flops, we share that too. Manuel and I are constantly putting our heads together to make each school as successful as possible.”

Green Brooms and SPAMA also host annual recitals for students and their families, but due to COVID-19, they have had to get creative with performances as well. For the first time ever, Green Brooms is holding its winter recitals in January and students will submit pre-recorded videos in the early part of the month that will be prepared for the recitals ahead of time.

“This gives us the ability to organize professional piano accompaniment for students, instructor duets or even the use of the Green Brooms house band, which will record accompaniment for students who wish to still have that part of the recital experience,” Gyllian explains. “Each group of students will be able to invite whomever and however many audience members they would like to the online recitals. To preserve the safety of our virtual recitals, guests will be checked in before being admitted and the instructors will also be on the Zoom recital to introduce their students. We want to make sure these performances are still as fun, heartwarming and inspiring to students and families, while also being high quality and concise.”

SPAMA held its online winter recitals on December 6 with approximately 70 students divided into 11 small concert groups. Instructors hosted recitals throughout the morning and afternoon via Zoom with family and friends tuning in to watch. Afterwards, the recitals were recorded and posted to SPAMA’s YouTube channel for those who were unable to attend.

On December 12, students of SPAMA instructor Mackin Carroll also performed a virtual recital for the assisted-living community Aegis Living Granada Hills, where recital director and instructor Alex Domingo held a concert the previous year.

“It’s a wonderful time for students to see each other and feel supported in our music community while we’re online and unable to see each other in person,” Manuel says. “SPAMA looks forward to continuing this tradition of bringing warmth and entertainment to assisted-living communities.”

Another benefit of going virtual is that SPAMA has been able to reconnect with music teachers that are no longer in the area, creating additional opportunities for lessons. Students that have moved or live far away, even in other states, have also benefitted from the virtual classes.

“Some of our teachers that had moved away for various reasons are now teaching for us again remotely,” Manuel notes. “Most of our students used to live within a 3 to 5-mile radius of the school, but our footprint has now extended to students as far away as New York and other parts of the world. Even after things improve and we can return to in-person classes, we plan to continue offering online lessons.”

Gyllian echoes his sentiments: “I think our world has changed, almost overnight and virtual learning is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. We have a ways to go before we can breathe that collective sigh of relief as a society and return to some semblance of ‘normal’ life. I think we’ve all made the best of a less than ideal situation. I don’t anticipate that everyone will be ready to ‘go back’ at the same time. We will continue to meet the changing needs of our students and their families, and offer virtual lessons for as long as we need to. Ultimately, I’d love to get back to teaching the best in-person lessons around and nurturing and growing our community in the most ideal and safest way possible.”

For more information, visit greenbrooms.com and artsmusicacademy.com