Music Education Goes Virtual

Des Moines Public Schools originally planned to re-open on April 13th, but now there is still doubt from the community and school administrators that the date will still hold for students to return. While we all wait as patiently as we can, staying home and practicing social distancing, new measures are being taken to engage students in music education opportunities. The DMMC Hip-Hop 101 after-school program, held weekly at Meredith Middle School, is currently on hold, but we are excited to explore new avenues with online classes!

In addition to continuing our Hip-Hop classes online, DMMC will also be offering our first virtual Rock Band class as well! Hip-Hop 101 will be live by April 15th, and Rock Band 101 will be starting up the following week. All online classes will be FREE for students and participants and will be led by professional musicians and music educators. We will be sharing more detailed information and student sign-up links soon. Stay tuned!

While the DMMC changes courses momentarily with our music education programs, other music educators and studios are also making adjustments to continue lessons with students by working with their instructors through live video streams via Zoom, Facetime, and other live video streaming options. We had a chance to chat with two talented instructors, Dang Felton and Anna Gebhardt, to check in on how lessons were going at the music studios where they work and also learn about how more students can get involved.

Anna Gebhardt, piano and voice teacher with Central Iowa Music Labs, and leader behind the locally-loved group Annalibera, told us, “I have enjoyed learning this new teaching skill. I always like learning new ways to teach…It also makes me feel good that I now have the ability to teach and connect with more people. I never really considered doing online lessons before, but it’s much better that I had imagined. I think you can get a lot done!”

With the recent changes in our everyday lives, Anna did mention some spots had opened up in her teaching schedule and would recommend reaching out to her via email if you are interested in lessons! Shoot her a message if interested, annargebhardt@gmail.com, and make sure to check out the most recent Annalibera releases while you’re at it!

Many music educators, specifically those who teach privately or at professional music studios, often depend on playing out as well and maintain a well-booked schedule for future gigs and dates. Many  live music events have either been forced to cancel or postpone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken quite a toll on full-time musicians. Dang Felton, Administrative Director and instructor at City Voices, has been offering many of his music lessons via live video streams as well. We have also learned since this Q & A (done mid-March) that Dang has had multiple gigs canceled, but remains optimistic about overcoming this current dilemma. You may contact Dang Felton about his online guitar/piano/violin/bass/mandolin lesson opportunities via email (dang_felton@yahoo.com) and make sure to catch his set when live music returns! Visit his website to check out more!

Q & A (3/16/2020)

  1. DMMC: First of all, I hope you and your students are doing well! You currently work at City Voices as both the Administrative Director and as an instructor.  How has your day-to-day routine changed with so many students coming in and out of the studio? Are you taking any extra precautions with how you regularly teach?

Dang: Having worked at City Voices for 7 years, I can say that our studio Executive Director Mary Anne Sims and our instructors take a special pride in keeping in touch with our students, their families, and their well-being.

We are following CDC recommendations by assuring that our building and instruments are sanitized while keeping at least 6 ft’ between students and instructors.

Mary Anne also took immediate action to ensure that all instructors knew they would be paid for all scheduled lessons within the next two weeks regardless of student or instructor attendance.

  1. DMMC: Being a musician is basically your full-time job, right? You teach music at City Voices and often play out at many venues, breweries, and special events. Have any of your gigs been canceled or postponed?

Dang: I am fully immersed in a musician’s lifestyle. All of my income comes from writing and performing or teaching others to write and perform. I have had several shows canceled, but most have been rescheduled and many of my private lessons have been following the same pattern.

  1. DMMC: In general, this is a pretty scary time for all of us, but how is the pandemic affecting you financially as a musician and a music instructor?

Dang: First, my best wishes go out to my friends and peers who solely rely on performing for income.  I’m seeing entire tours being canceled from both local and national entertainers. Our schedules are being absolutely decimated. These performances are generally booked between 3 months to even a year in advance. Most businesses pay musicians very much on an honor system as well, so guaranteed income, regardless of performance, is very rare at a local and regional level.  One thing to also consider is how big the rotation of entertainers is and how often these venues and businesses host music. From my experience, our assumed income gets kicked down the proverbial road a minimum of 3 months if not canceled and lost outright. It has absolutely affected my personal income from gigs being rescheduled or canceled and individual lessons following suit.

Now, I am very spoiled and blessed with very empathetic business partners and clients. Most of my work can and has been rescheduled. My experience is very subjective though. I have a 4 income lifestyle between performing, my administrative work for the non-profit City Voices, my private lesson schedule, and my City Voices student schedule. It’s somewhat of a redundant safety net. That said, it is being pushed to it’s absolute limit and I am forced into thinking strategically about what bills get paid first.

  1. DMMC: As you mentioned, many venues and bands book out many months in advance. How likely is it that these are just postponed shows, rather than fully canceled events?

Dang: Let’s put this into two answers because I don’t want to lose sight that my friends and peers have had to cancel entire regional and national tours. This shouldn’t go unobserved. There is no rescheduling a tour without practically starting from scratch. It would take divine intervention to align every planned stop through multiple businesses across multiple states within the same window months later without schedule conflicts from both the host and the talent.

So, let’s say the bigger the event the harder it is to reschedule, or the bigger the event the more likely it will be outright canceled. That’s in contrast to the flip side; let’s say a small venue solo performer.  Again, it really depends how big the rotation of talent that the host keeps, how often they have recurring artists, and how often they host in general. I imagine most rescheduled shows are being pushed at least 2 to 4 months out. If a host has a very large rotation and a limited seasonal schedule it’s likely it may just be canceled. It really can’t be understated; my gig-to-gig working friends’ incomes are being suffocated and it’s disheartening to watch.

DMMC: What can fans and the community do to help support local musicians and gig workers during a time like this? Are you making any big changes to your online store/merch?

Dang: This is big. Buy their merchandise, donate through their website, or use the seemingly useless (until now) messenger apps through social media to send money to help replace their dramatically unexpected lost income. Share their work, react to their online presence, and endlessly stream their work if it’s on a streaming sight.

I have a lot of damage control to do regarding my schedule across the board, so updating my website may be low on my priority list, but keep an eye out for your local talents and keep in touch with them.

  1. DMMC: Good luck on the return of your students after their extended Spring Break! Anything else you’d like to share?

Dang: Thank you, and thanks for drawing attention to this issue. Musicians, artists, and gig workers more than often experience life without a human resources department, no paid time off, and unfortunately in some cases no healthcare due to a limited income. Any and all help is appreciated.

Discover over 40 Iowa act who have graced us with their presence at 80/35 in THIS ARTICLE, or dive into the bands that played our local music festival, Gross Domestic Product, in November of 2019 HERE! Keep supporting local. Stream your favorite acts, buy some digital albums, and be sure to tune in for live concert streams!

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