Young Musicians Classes

When our campus closed in response to Covid-19, PCM transitioned many of its programs to distance learning formats. Some of the greatest hurdles to overcome were experienced by our group music programs, including Young Musicians (YM).

Now, after several months of learning from our successes and the many challenges posed by these unprecedented times, our YM faculty is gearing up for the start of another school year and has fun new classes up its sleeve. We recently sat down (virtually of course) with Rachael Doudrick, the Chair of the Young Musicians Department, to talk about her Department’s recent experiences and some of what’s on the horizon.

Rachael Doudrick

The primary focus of the YM program has always been to provide quality music instruction that is child-centered and this priority remained front and center as YM classes went virtual. As it became apparent that the “safer at home” order would be in effect much longer than a few weeks, Ms. Rachael and her YM teachers realized they needed a platform that would allow them to see and interact with the children and their families in a meaningful way.

“Luckily, Zoom proved to be fairly intuitive to use and easy to adapt. We were able to see and hear our students, share music clips and visual presentations, and ensure that we kept our music classes active and engaging.”

Mother and Daughter Read Book

Many distance learning programs, including YM, have experimented with both synchronous (learning in real time) and asynchronous (assignment-based instruction). According to Ms. Rachael, even when instruction was in person, YM teachers “have noticed that young children are mostly observers in class and demonstrate most of their learning outside of class time.”

In developing lesson plans, YM teachers take into account that it is just as important to foster learning opportunities outside the classroom as it is inside the classroom. “Our learning time, online or offline, is always about fostering personal connections with children and parents and providing new ways for families to interact with and enjoy music. YM teachers have always been aware of our role in empowering parents and grandparents to continue making music at home.”

Elizabeth Sawitzke with a sign that says

YM teacher Elizabeth Zacharias shares, “Children love music, and they love to experience music with the people they are most connected to…. as fun, educational, and valuable as our class time is, the most important students in the YM classes are the parents. My desire is for parents to learn how to joyfully and confidently make music with their children.”

To support our parents and facilitate offline learning, YM teachers have developed a number of activities for learning outside of the classroom – like craft and instrument making projects, videos, coloring pages, and worksheets. And this fall, the YM Department will use Google Classroom to provide students and families with even more activities, music, visual aids, and manipulatives for them to use outside the virtual classroom.

Mary Alonso clapping

Since March, YM teachers have seen – and experienced firsthand – how the demands of staying at home, online schooling, and working from home have impacted our families. To address and help meet these needs we are now:

  • Allowing families to enroll on a quarterly, instead of annual, basis.
  • Offering all levels of YM classes on Saturday mornings, so families that are maxed out during the week won’t miss out on being a part of class.
  • Introducing several 6-week-long “Bite Size” YM classes with special interest topics, such as sing-a-longs and musical mathematics.
  • Creating engaging visual content featuring rhymes, rhythms, songs, and stories, which we will share through Google Classroom.
  • Ensuring that YM classes are ACTIVE (as always!) so that our students continue to move, dance, and play!

We know that these are challenging times and, while there is apprehension around adding one more online program to already busy schedules, now is the time for children to further develop their creativity and self expression. Ms. Elizabeth says, “Distance Learning provides our parents the opportunity to continue building their treasury [of songs, rhymes, and dances], so children might continue benefiting from the musical riches we offer during our classes. While the interaction with the teacher and other families has shifted, the most crucial musical connection within each family need not be interrupted during this time.”

In addition to the increasing number of virtual events and performances, we have also seen many new music education programs become available online. “There are a lot of videos, computer programs, and online classes that purport to teach music to children, and many are very good,” says Ms. Rachael. So, with all of these programs available at our fingertips, why YM?

Lindsay Dodoras plays ukulele

“I have several answers, but the most important one is that the YM program is created for the way children actually learn and grow. We have child development — brain, body, and spirit — in mind from the very beginning!… Young children learn through play, exploration, discovery, active kinesthetic experience, and imagination. What our program does so well is to guide parents and children along that journey together. My other favorite answer is that PCM is the ‘big umbrella’! We have music for everyone, from infants through adults, and we really care about lifelong musicianship. So, we start YM classes with the belief and expectation that our students will become lifelong musicians and then we assist them in pursuing that goal.”

For families interested in learning more and experiencing our YM classes online, we encourage you to join us for a free trial class. For a complete list of offerings, visit our website or contact Stephanie Purschell, Student Services Coordinator at music@pasadenaconservatory.org.