South Shore Conservatory students stay in tune with online learning

Amy Bennett is studying piano at South Shore Conservatory. Because of coronavirus crisis, her classes are being held online. (Image courtesy of Amy Bennett)

South Shore Conservatory classes are now completely online, but students say it’s still worthwhile even with the change.

THE PATRIOT LEDGER – To respect social distancing rules during the coronavirus outbreak, South Shore Conservatory went online with lessons and performances several weeks ago. While music and dance lessons over video chat have their limitations, students say there have been unexpected benefits to the change.

Duxbury resident Amy Bennett, 45, usually studies piano weekly at SSC, but now she’s switched to lessons using FaceTime. She said the structure of the lesson is the same, but instead of her teacher watching her in person, she sets her phone up with a tripod on the keyboard so that her teacher can see her play.

“I’ve been surprised because she’s even been able to see well enough to know when my fingers are on the wrong note or too curled or anything like that,” she said. “We do the warm up, we go through my songs, she’s able to make suggestions or point out where I might be hitting the wrong note. I feel like they’ve literally been just as effective.”

Amy Bennett is studying piano at South Shore Conservatory. Because of coronavirus crisis, her classes are being held online. (Image courtesy of Amy Bennett)

Bennett said her 8-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who also studies piano at the conservatory, has benefited from the continued lessons as well. Bennett said Charlotte has been practicing songs ahead of where she is in her music book, which she wasn’t doing before.

“South Shore Conservatory came online before Charlotte’s school did. So it was her first contact outside, and she just lit up. It was an amazing connection, and she hasn’t skipped a beat,” she said. “It creates a bit of normalcy for everyone in some way.”

Jess Caso, 15, who also lives in Duxbury, has different challenges as a ballet student. Normally, she’d have four, two-hour lessons at the conservatory per week, but now they’re done using Zoom.

Caso uses the edge of her bed as a bar and dances on a carpet instead of a dance floor, but she said she’s been able to do most of what she does in class. Everyone is in a different space, which limits what they can do, but Caso said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I’m finding that we’re working on things that don’t require as much space that we wouldn’t normally be working on if we were in class,” she said.

The biggest drawback, she said, is that it’s harder for her dance teacher to give corrections. Normally, she can see students’ entire bodies, which isn’t possible with Zoom.

“I’ve had time to work on more technique for dance and I think once all of this ends, those benefits will definitely show and help me more,” Caso said.

Darcy Milligan, 18, of Scituate, studies jazz guitar and composition and is a member of two rock bands. She said while her video chat lessons make things more difficult, they’re also helping her learn.

Normally, when Milligan performs a solo, her teacher will play chords under her. But on video chat, only one guitar can be heard at a time. So she’s been forced to learn how to solo without the chords — a skill she’s been putting off learning.

“I don’t have that option and I can’t just back out of it. I’ve got to do it,” she said. “So it’s like getting that whole filter of not pushing yourself as hard as you could. It’s pushing me and I’ve noticed I’ve improved.”

As for the rock bands, with the musicians unable to play together over video chat because of the lag, they’ve taken to working on something that often is ignored in favor of playing: their online presence.

Milligan said she’s been able to start side projects as the main ones have slowed down.

“Without music I’d go insane,” she said. “And I miss practicing and playing with both bands, but as long as I see everyone’s faces, that’s all that matters to me. I just want them to still be in my life somehow.”

By Susannah Sudborough

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