In response to the pandemic, we transitioned our community music school from in-person to virtual programming. In accordance with city, state, and CDC guidelines, we pivoted to a hybrid model this fall to provide families with flexibility and a choice of both in-person and online instruction.

Our virtual programming makes it so students can connect with faculty members for arts lessons through a computer click or a video chat. Simply put, technology makes geography irrelevant.

The result? We’re not only serving families in the North End, Charlestown, and surrounding Boston neighborhoods, but also across the Commonwealth and the country!

Arts education is now accessible to more people online, empowering us to extend our reach geographically and welcome new students participating from areas beyond the city into the NEMPAC family. This week’s blog post spotlights the experiences of two families based outside of Boston who enrolled their children in our virtual programming and explores how online private music instruction fits within their schedules.

Christina Wiater, a resident of North Reading, Massachusetts, enrolled her son in piano lessons in February 2020. When asked what drew her to NEMPAC, Wiater said,

I used to live in the North End and had become familiar with the organization through the various events they ran in the community. When my son was old enough to take lessons, I reached out to them and they connected us with one of their amazing piano teachers.”

Kristen Antolik, a resident of Palm Harbor, Florida, signed her daughter up for piano lessons in September 2020. Antolik was drawn to the 501(c)(3) through a college friend. She and Sherri Snow, NEMPAC’s executive director, attended Boston University’s College of Fine Arts and kept in touch after graduation.

Both Wiater and Antolik emphasized that one of the benefits of virtual private music instruction as opposed to in-person lessons is access to lessons from the comfort and convenience of one’s own home. Parents and guardians don’t have to transport their children anywhere in order for them to participate in online programming. This lack of commute also prevents disruptions to siblings’ activities, enabling them to go about their regular routines uninterrupted by travel.

When asked how her daughter’s virtual study of piano fits within her family’s schedule, Antolik explained,

It works well because we don’t have to travel anywhere for lessons. Sophia has a three-year-old sister and sometimes she is napping during lesson times.”

Wiater added,

I work full-time, have three kids and am often juggling the logistics of getting them to and from their various activities. Because we don’t have to commute to the lesson, we can easily fit it in after school and work every week.”

Another benefit of participation in virtual programming is that since no time is spent traveling to and from the lessons, it creates an opportunity for built-in practice time immediately before and after online instruction. These windows of time allow students to reinforce their learnings. In addition, the built-in practice time empowers rising artists to commit to a consistent practice schedule to regularly rehearse the new scales, songs, and techniques they’ve been taught.

Wiater explained,

The virtual lessons have been really convenient to schedule and it has been great doing them from home. [My son] often practices before and after the lesson, so [he] is getting the opportunity to play for longer periods of time which I can see is making a difference.”

Prospective students may wonder whether it’s possible to build rapport with instructors during virtual music lessons, especially if they’re based outside of Boston and have never met their faculty members face-to-face. For Antolik and Waiter, the answer is a resounding yes!

To that end, our faculty members nurture the next generation of rising artists and wholeheartedly believe that we are all musicians and performers. Whether guiding in-person or virtual lessons, our faculty members teach with a conviction that there is an artist inside every person waiting to be fully realized and expressed.

Antolik commented on how Ethan DePuy, a voice and piano instructor at NEMPAC, structures her daughter’s virtual lessons and builds rapport:

Ethan is very personable and engages with Sophia about who she is as a person and not just about what they are learning in piano lessons. He’s also great about recapping everything they have learned to reinforce skills with Sophia.”

Wiater commented on how Jaime Castellanos, a voice and piano instructor at NEMPAC, demonstrates optimism and patience during online arts education.

Miss Jaime is his piano teacher. She does a great job connecting with my son and her enthusiasm for piano is contagious. He is excited to see her each week and show her what he’s been practicing since the last lesson. She is also very patient which is great for a child who is just starting out.”

When asked what she’d say to someone who is based outside of Boston and is considering enrolling either themselves or their child in virtual programming at NEMPAC, Wiater added,

I would say try it! I was hesitant at first that it wouldn’t be the same as in-person lessons, but it has been better than I ever expected. It is also a safe way to learn something new!”

In the words of Wiater, are you or your child(ren) ready to learn something new this winter? If you’re a resident of the North End, Charlestown, or surrounding Boston neighborhoods whose family is already enrolled in NEMPAC’s arts education, then do you have family members or friends outside of the city or across the country who have always wanted to learn a new instrument or take up voice lessons?

The time is now. You and your loved ones are only two quick steps away from making these artistic dreams a reality and registering for virtual private music instruction:

  1. Complete this private lesson inquiry.
  2. After submitting the inquiry, you’ll receive a day/time confirmation for your virtual private music lessons. Then, you can schedule lessons through this registration form.

As we said, technology makes geography irrelevant. Wherever you’re based—whether it’s Florida like Antolik or North Reading, Massachusetts, like Wiater—we can’t wait to welcome you into the NEMPAC family.

Virtual Music Lessons