Music Maker workshops find an antidote to quarantine | Community focus

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MUsic Maker Workshops, a family music school that opened in Ahwatukee in 1997, has created an answer for people who feel restless as the stay-at-home order drags on:

Community cabin fever hunters.

Online classes, free to the public, vary weekly and range from songs for elementary students and preschool story times to music workshops such as a recent “How to Spoon” class led by instructor David Libman .

Like many small businesses, Music Maker was unprepared when the stay-at-home order was imposed on March 20.

Still, Music Maker Workshops was quick to respond, shutting the doors of their 4,000 square foot studio, 16 classrooms at 3233 E. Chandler Blvd. but refusing to abandon their 589 music students.

They opted for virtual music lessons.

“We knew the new normal was changing quickly and as a business we needed to pivot quickly to help families stay home and stay safe. So in less than 24 hours, we switched all of our studio lessons to virtual lessons using the Zoom platform, ”said Shelly Yakubow, Music Makers Workshop co-director with her sister Kim Steedman.

The managers and staff were not without trepidation.

“The truth is, we were very nervous. We didn’t know how the families would react, ”Yakubow recalls. “We reached out to them with their Zoom login details and held our breath.

“Then it happened; the tinkle on computer screens started ringing and students were logging in for their lessons. We were so excited; It worked. These bright-eyed students greeted us from the security of their homes.

There were some bugs to be fixed, including audio controls and learning how to best involve students virtually.

“But we adapted quickly, and each week our instructors started sharing with the team what was working, what was not and what new apps were helping teach various concepts,” she said.

Yakubow, who resides in Chandler, and his sister Steedman from Ahwatukee co-run Music Makers Workshop, the 23-year-old music studio founded by their mother, Beverly Bigam.

A nurse by training, Bigam was an accomplished pianist and after moving from British Columbia to Arizona in 1997, she wanted to open a studio.

“His vision was to have a place where adults and children could learn music under one roof,” Steedman said.

In 2000, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education, Yakubow joined his mother to teach music.

Five years later, Steedman left her full-time nursing career to participate in the workshops as well, focusing on running the Kindermusik program and co-running the family business.

Beverly Bigam, who resides in Sun Lakes with her 51-year-old husband Larry Bigam, retired in 2015 but still teaches adult piano once a week.

In the years that followed, Music Maker Workshops expanded its offering with courses in a variety of instruments – guitar, ukulele, saxophone, drums / percussion, clarinet and flute as well as singing and songwriting lessons.

They have a staff of 32 mostly part-time instructors, and since ordered to stay home say they have been “blessed” that many of their music students have chosen to continue through virtual lessons.

“We have managed to retain approximately 80 percent of our student body to date. We are very grateful to the students who continue during COVID-19, ”Yakubow said.

“We are very grateful to the parents who sent messages of gratitude to their teachers who not only provide proper instruction, but also encouragement, motivation and bring joy to musical creation,” she said. continued, adding:

“Parents are so happy that their children have such a creative outlet in these unprecedented times. On our social networks, students have started to publish their music, to share their achievements, and many of them have not missed a beat with the virtual option.

Among those students is Amanda Waxberg, a sophomore at Horizon Honors High School, who is a violinist and has also played transverse flute and piccolo in the group Horizon.

“Even with everything going on in the world today, taking lessons with my violin teacher online is one of the things I look forward to every week,” said the 16-year-old.

“Since I have a lot more free time, I was able to practice the violin for almost an hour every other day, which is a lot more time than usual since I am so busy with homework and the like. extracurricular activities. “

Amanda said one of her favorite things about online violin lessons “is that I can always be pushed to do my best and work my best.

“I am so grateful that my teacher is always able and willing to work with me and that Music Makers strives to ensure that we all receive the help and encouragement we need to improve in these difficult times.” , she said.

Her father, David Waxberg, said he appreciated how the virtual lessons kept his daughter focused on music “through a difficult time in our lives.”

“Amanda is motivated and would play anyway, but having that weekly base of contact has definitely helped keep the momentum going,” said Waxberg, a 10-year resident of Ahwatukee.

“Plus, this was the first time I was able to observe a lesson,” he added, “and I really enjoyed hearing him take the feedback, interact with his instructor and make immediate improvements.”

In addition to the regular program of music lessons, Music Makers Workshop has set a new goal: “to transform COVID-19 into the most positive defining experience in the studio”.

“We thought about how we can bring musical relief to families during this time of isolation at home. The children were bored, the parents were overwhelmed with trying to balance work and family obligations; so, besides weekly classes, what could we do for these families? Yakubow said.

A team of instructors have put together a variety of free workshops for children and teens, free and designed to make them accessible.

They include things like music production, story time, “Drummin ‘Around the House” and songs to sing along to.

“We wanted to be a beacon of light in a dark time,” Yakubow said, adding that the first weeks of free classes were full.

“Then we found out that many school-aged children started getting their own homework and were overwhelmed. So right now we are offering Community Cabin Fever Busters primarily to preschoolers who really need activities to do, ”Yakubow said.

The wide range of Cabin Fever Buster classes and regular class schedules are injected with a dose of lightness by the offer of weekly contests.

Last week, the Creative Hat Contest encouraged participants to photograph and post themselves online with their hats on.

One of the first and most frequented Cabin Fever Busters was a “How to Play Spoons” segment taught by David Libman, percussion teacher and professional musician.

“Spoons aren’t something I play all the time,” Libman said.

“I learned to play them for fun, and people tend to have fun because you don’t see them often. Kids and parents alike seemed to really like the novelty of this one. In fact, it’s a great instrument because you can literally play it anywhere, ”said Libman.

“I even had adults who played the game and got great feedback from everyone,” he added.

Although he taught Music Makers Workshops for six years, he said: “It was my first time teaching spoons so it was a little intimidating, but maybe I’ll do another one. in the future.”

Music Maker Workshops’ full-day and half-day summer camps remain in limbo. All June camps have been canceled but reservations for July are still open. Yakubow said.

Regardless of the future, there are positive lessons to be learned, the sisters said.

“This experience has helped us to improve and grow and I think we will continue to use virtual options in the future when we reopen the studio classrooms,” Yakubow said.

“The convenience of home lessons is a great option for busy parents or when a student is feeling sick. I know COVID-19 won’t break us and we will use this experience to learn how we can better serve our students. “

Steedman said they are getting more requests from adults who now say they have more time, would like to try out a new instrument, or enroll in vocal or music production classes.

Information: MMWAZ.com.


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