Regent Park School of Music holds its 1st-ever virtual recital to cheering online audience

·2 min read
Regent Park School of Music holds its 1st-ever virtual recital to cheering online audience

After a bumpy start to online learning, a music school in Toronto's Regent Park neighbourhood says students are thriving though virtual lessons — and it's allowed a community to connect during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Regent Park School of Music, a non-profit organization, held their annual winter recital Friday evening online, without hiccups.

The set-up of the recital was drastically different than past years, with students appearing on camera in their homes. But the clamouring of piano keys and the sound of violins, drums and students singing remained unchanged.

The performance was a long time coming, since the school was not able to get up and running through video conference until this October, said Richard Marsella, executive director of the school.

"We had no experience in virtual learning as an after-school program and a registered charity," he said, adding that the school had to learn quickly how to get 40 of their staff online.

WATCH | Students at The Regent Park School of Music hold their winter recital:

Accessibility is a key goal of the school and Marselle says they had to determine how to deliver instruments and offer curbside pickup, as well as assist where poor WiFi was an issue.

The school's lessons are subsidized to ensure "affordable music education" and fees were waived for the 2020-2021 school year, their website states.

'Really moving and motivating'

Marsella said they started classes in October to ensure student safety was the main priority. Attendance rates have been around 80 per cent since, he said.

"We are thankful for that success and the fact that our kids keep coming back week after week... We just want to stay connected at this difficult time with them," he said.

"It's really moving and motivating for all of our faculty," he said.

Marsella said music is a "saving grace" for the community and he's grown appreciative of how virtual learning can allow classes to continue during tough circumstances.

It all culminated in the winter recital that saw students perform from their living rooms to a cheering virtual audience.

Student Gelila Lissanu said her piano lessons have been a stress reliever during the pandemic. She's been taking classes at the school for the past eight years.

"It's just a very inclusive space to be in," she said. "You can always feel comfortable there and there's no judgment."

She said music education stays with a person for a lifetime and hopes to continue to play for others.

"I'm not sure what the future has in store for me but I hope music is a part of it," she said.