When the University of North Texas began offering free virtual music classes to Dallas ISD, schools like James Madison High School, was one of the schools who saw immediate results.
“I saw leaps and bound with the students,” said Andrea Diggs, choral director at Madison.
The Virtual Private Music Lessons program began in the fall, offering a one-on-one 30-minute session per week to each participating student. The lessons, taught by UNT graduate students and faculty members, have been offered via an online platform and an iPad supplied by the district.
In Madison’s case, the school hadn’t had a choral program in 10 years, and most of the students were new to choir, with the exception of those who had some choir experience in middle school. During the virtual lessons, students either worked on a song assigned by their teacher or on their repertoire.
Being able to have the private lessons added to the foundation Diggs was laying – having a good singing technique, teaching the students how to read music and how to blend within a choir.
Diggs attributes part of their successful year to the lessons, as they received superior and excellent ratings in both concert and sight reading during UIL competitions. Four of the nine students who competed advanced to the state level.
“The voice lessons played an important role in making that happen,” Diggs said.
Over 10,000 free lessons have been collaboratively provided through the Virtual Private Music Lessons program with Dallas ISD, according to Casey Goldman, associate director for Community Outreach and Collaboration at the College of Music at UNT.
“It aligns with the clarion call of educating all students for success while helping to fulfill the UNT College of Music’s mission by serving our diverse musical culture with excellence, integrity, and imagination,” Goldman said.
Goldman also said that it was fitting the program has supported the ongoing successes of Dallas ISD music students as the district has realized its vision of becoming the best school district in the country.
In April, UNT hosted a high school showcase, where they invited teachers, parents and students to get a firsthand look about how the program worked. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and see performances.
Marc Cervantes, band director for L.G. Pinkston High School, said students must have the foundation to be able to play an instrument to fully benefit from the program. Whether they’re an experienced musician or just starting out, private lessons can help them become a better musician.
“This program helps our students get the opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise to receive private lessons at no cost to the school,” Cervantes added.
Cervantes, who has approximately 30 students in the band program at Pinkston, also said that he has seen great improvements in his students due to the lessons.
For example, there was a clarinet player that one could barely hear when she played her instrument, but after some lessons, she was able to project more.
He also said that one of the benefits is that students are able to receive lessons from a specialist in their instrument. For example, trumpet players are taking lessons from a trumpet player.
Some of Cervantes’ students who were graduating this year, were also able to take what they learned in their lessons and apply it to their audition music for college.
One of the biggest takeaways, Cervantes said, is that it’s helping the students overcome their fear of asking for help.
“Not only does the program help them become better musicians, but they also are learning to advocate for themselves – a life skill that will help them in the future,” he said.
The free virtual music lessons will continue next school year. To learn more about the program, email email@example.com.