Staff Spotlight: Co-founder & Executive Director Aaron Sizemore Discusses Online Music Lessons
It’s no secret that education of all varieties has been dramatically affected by COVID-19. Many passionate educators have taken this opportunity to try an innovative new approach that could even pave the way for the future of learning. Music House School didn’t waste any time rebuilding a platform that would allow students to continue their music education and even begin practicing some of the more technical trades in the audio world. Co-founder and executive director, Aaron Sizemore, took some time to discuss how Music House School is making use of this pandemic and how it could shape the future of music education.
I can only imagine what kind of effect a pandemic would have on a music school. How are you guys handling it?
We're innovating, which is what we've always done. We just had to shift our priorities. We actually started developing our own software last year so we have something in place to build on. The plan was to first build a suite of tools that would help our amazing teachers be even more amazing. After that though, we planned to build a robust "student dashboard" that would have all kinds of experience-enhancing online tools for our students. So we've fast-tracked that. So far we've already implemented text messaging, live-streaming video, community forums, and most recently, online multitrack recording.
You've implemented all of that since the stay-at-home order on March 24th?
We started about 2 weeks before that because we saw the writing on the wall. But, yeah, it's been a whirlwind of brainstorming, development, and training. Lots of 12-hour days (and nights). But despite the stress, it's been super rewarding. The people I work with are truly amazing, inspiring people who love what they do. And the students and parents have been amazing too. Change is hard, especially during times of great anxiety, but they've embraced it.
Tell me more about the online multi-track recording. How does that work?
It’s a system that runs entirely in a web browser, so it can be accessed from any device. The students can use the built-in mics & inputs on their device or they can plug in an audio interface. It’s super user friendly and versatile. The possibilities are endless. The week we introduced it to our students, we set up a fun mini-project for them. The teacher of each band made a bass & percussion track for them before the rehearsal and then had each student record their own part over it. Then they combined them all together to hear what they ended up with. The students loved it. We’re going to have each band submit a completed song to our online forum at the end of May. All the students and faculty will vote on their favorites.
That’s amazing. What will you do with all these features you're developing once things go back to normal?
As I said, we were already planning on building an online component into what we offer our students so most of this fits right into our long-term plan. Our main focus is community building because music is such a social art form. We want to bring people together. The more ways our teachers and students have to connect, the more meaningful their overall experience will be. Things like video-streaming and cloud-based recording platforms will allow our students and teachers to keep collaborating between their face-to-face classes, lessons, and rehearsals. And that will just make the face-to-face stuff even more productive and valuable. It's very exciting to think about.
It sounds like there might be a silver lining to all of this. Is there?
I've been thinking about this and my thoughts are laced with irony. This situation is truly an existential crisis for a business like ours. It's terrifying. And yet everyone on the Music House team seems to be inspired, motivated, and focused. Maybe even, dare I say, excited. Why is that? Maybe it's because we're all musicians, and musicians, by there very nature, are drawn to problem-solving. They practice and create every day because they want to reach up to that always just-out-of-reach "next level". It's in our DNA. So, as stressful as this has all been, we're kind of in our element. Everyone on the team is super inspired right now because we're innovating and improving at a dizzying pace. The irony gets even deeper when I consider that, at a time of social distancing, I've never felt so connected to the people I work with. We've rallied together and really pushed each other to be our best selves. I'm so grateful to have them. That sense of fear and dread is there, but in the midst of all of that, I'm excited about the future. Who would have thought?