Music school embraces e-learning during pandemic


East Brunswick, NJ – Music Notes Academy came into being by accident almost twenty years ago. Founder and owner Brandon Kurzawa was invited by a parent to teach his son the drums. From there, things snowballed. Now the Music Notes Academy is a full-fledged music school, offering lessons for just about any instrument in two locations in New Jersey.

“In 2006, I decided to make it a more official pursuit,” Kurzawa said. “I started the LLC, started having meetings with the SBA, and started putting a lot of effort into it. We’ve been doing it ever since.”

When the initial pandemic closures began in mid-March 2020, Kurzawa closed the academy for what was supposed to be informal spring break.

“I spent this week trying to figure out how to make school an online school because I felt it was going to take a lot longer than 14 days,” Kurzawa said. “I started doing all these demos with Zoom and Google. I had to learn and quickly train everyone to acclimatize to start the following Monday as an online school.”

While he envisioned staggered, distant, and partial partial reopens over the summer and again in the fall, the interest just wasn’t there – Music Notes Academy has been essentially a fully online school ever since. a full year.

“We started the school year face-to-face with a staggered schedule only on Saturdays,” said Kurzawa. “We didn’t have a lot of parents who wanted to come back. So we practically taught online the entire ’21 -’22 school year. Little by little, there was more interest in coming back.”

But the interest of returning to regular in-person education is mixed with the interest of staying online indefinitely. Despite this combination of differing views from parents on where to go at this point in the pandemic, the result for Kurzawa and the Academy has always been on education.

“Just trying to keep the students playing music during this covid has really been the ultimate goal,” Kurzawa said. “Just trying to keep the well-being of the students at the forefront of our concerns seemed to be the primary focus of every lesson or private class. Just trying to get them to listen to music, to play music. to do something artistic has really been the quest. And it helped a lot of kids. “

Kurzawa has many students who even increased their skill level during the pandemic; kids train more because, in quarantine, they just had more time. Its students were also in a particularly advantageous position, as the Academy has always insisted on having the right equipment in the home, including method books that essentially allowed student homes to easily turn into a home. alternative classroom. Nothing was missing except for the in-person contact.

“For our students, it was always a curriculum method. All of our students always had method books and sheet music. When Covid arrived, all of our students had things to practice at home. The only difference was that they weren’t coming to the building anymore, “Kurzawa said.” Having this proper structure before Covid helped them get through Covid. “

Throughout the pandemic, Kurzawa shipped students needed books, offered free agreement days, and free loan instrument rentals.

“We just tried to ride the wave, basically day in and day out,” he said.

And although this new method of distance learning has not been easy, it has created several intrinsic advantages. When comparing a distance lesson to an in-person lesson, the biggest difference is in the usable time. Before Covid, students, after packing their gear and driving to the studio, had to settle in, tune in and warm up – eating a meal within minutes of the start of the lesson. In this remote situation, the driving time is eliminated and the tuning / warm-up time is done just before the start of the lesson, giving the students more time for instruction.

“When Covid started, I used to say to a lot of parents, ‘now is the time for you to maximize your class time with us’. When we start at 3 p.m., we jump right in. And then once we are done with the lesson, I would say to my students “don’t quit the drums. Stay here and practice for 15-20 minutes, work on the things we just worked on to maximize what you are doing. you’re going to do it tomorrow. For some of those students, they’ve actually saved more time on the instrument just because they don’t go and come back. “

Today, the Academy is largely still plagued by online education. The mixed interest of parents made it difficult to reopen definitively.

“Registration is taking longer than ever before because parents want a few days to think about it. So this part was more difficult, but the interest is definitely there,” Kurzawa said. “We’re just trying to teach music the right way and get the kids to play music. It’s not easy to do it the right way – read music, have a theory, have goals, be able to perform on their own – but it’s a big mix up now. ”

In anticipation of summer and fall, Kurzawa hopes for a fuller return to normal face-to-face training.

“I hope September will be another rebirth of getting back to normal,” Kurzawa said. “Because I don’t think students can manage more online. Being in a classroom and having a teacher in the classroom is crucial for any kind of learning. “

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