Crescendo is finding new ways to deliver high quality violin instruction during the pandemic
Updated: Feb 4
When the pandemic closed things down in March of 2020, Crescendo had to close its doors to in-person classes as well. Within a week of the schools’ closing, however, the Crescendo kids were back to work with one-on-one weekly online violin lessons. Crescendo committed to the idea that during this time of uncertainty, it would be important to use its program to help kids maintain a sense of stability. We wanted our kids to know that we could still figure out a way to move forward, and that continuing to play violin could be a way to maintain social connections and continue to be a source of comfort and joy.
This really was a community effort. Crescendo kids’ parents took on the additional role of coordinating Zoom lessons and getting their kids to and from rehearsals. This partnership allowed Crescendo to continue working with kids even when they couldn’t physically be together. As soon as the weather got warmer, Crescendo went outside for socially distanced, masked-up rehearsals. Crescendo kids practiced on front porches, in back yards, at city parks, and even a church parking lot (thanks again Bethel Baptist Church!). At the end of the summer they put on two outdoor concerts for a small gathering of parents to show off the musical skills the kids had continued to build despite the additional hurdles posed by the pandemic.
The 2020 - 2021 school year marks Crescendo’s third year. For this year, Crescendo instituted a theme: Our Work is Play, with the goal of focusing on the joys of making music. Crescendo moved classes to hybrid model with online classes during
the school week and small group Saturday rehearsals at Ann’s Heart in Phoenixville consistent with CDC guidelines. Crescendo continues to benefit from our amazing high school and college-student volunteers in the community. Since its inception, Phoenixville Area High School and Ursinus College student volunteers have served as important role models for the kids.
In addition, West Chester University’s Music Service Learning program reached out to Crescendo to help make the 2020-2021 school year a success. Maddie Robinson, soon to be a West Chester University graduate, spearheaded this collaboration as her senior project for the West Chester University Honors College. “I connected with Crescendo Phoenixville, volunteering for Tuesday and Thursday rehearsals. I’ve also worked to coordinate volunteers from the Music Service-Learning program to help with Crescendo Phoenixville by helping them find the best times to volunteer as well as aiding them in creating lesson plans,” says Maddie. Crescendo has also benefitted from volunteers at Ursinus University, who worked behind the scenes as interns and others who volunteered with the kids online.
Crescendo’s Tuesday night classes involve several volunteers who show up online to work with kids in groups of 1 - 3 as “practice buddies.” If anyone can make interacting online seem completely normal and make it a rewarding experience, it’s college students! This has been so successful that Crescendo may incorporate it into it’s after-school program well into the future!
Thursday’s classes are focused on music literacy and introducing kids to musical traditions from across the globe. Crescendo has taken advantage of the online medium to recruit specialists from all over the country to talk about different musical traditions. So far, the kids have learned about music from Bali from an ethnomusicologist who specializes in that area, and the multicultural influences for Latin American and salsa music from university students who currently study and perform in that genre. The kids are also learning about Irish folk music and dance from performers in New York who have performed in Carnegie Hall. In addition, kids are given the opportunity to learn some dance moves - salsa, plena, square dancing, Irish step dancing, and tap dancing as a way to get out of their seats and experience how music and movement relate to each other.
In talking about her experience collaborating with Crescendo Phoenixville, Maddie Robinson says, “Crescendo has handled the online transition very well. The pandemic has been hard for all of us, but Crescendo has gone above and beyond to help its students. Liz Grimshaw goes out of her way to make the rehearsals fun and give the students a feeling of normalcy in a time that makes us all feel out of control.” Crescendo Phoenixville will maintain its online platform for the 2020-2021 school year. Thanks to all of our volunteers, parents, community partners, and the Crescendo kids for continuing to develop their musical skills! To learn more or find out how you can help, visit www.crescendophoenixville.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.