United Conservatory of Music - May 2020

MAY 2020



GO BEYOND The Role of Music During a Crisis

I n March, Italy became the epicenter of Europe’s COVID-19 outbreak. The entire country was put on quarantine, and people were isolated in their homes. It was a difficult time, but many Italians found ways to keep their spirits up through music. You’ve probably seen the videos of musicians playing on their balconies, singers serenading their neighborhoods, and entire towns singing together. These lovely performances highlighted how music can create a sense of community, which is something we’ve always strived for at UCM. In 2008, UCM’s founder, Leo Kim, had only been teaching music for a brief time when the financial crisis began. Though not the same situation as this pandemic, the 2008 financial crisis overturned life and sent everyone into a state of uncertainty. It seemed like even the arts were in jeopardy, as many major music schools lost major portions of their endowments, and many of even the largest symphony orchestras went bankrupt. But Leo was still getting calls to teach music. Even in the midst of the financial crisis, people who wanted music lessons for their children still wanted them. They had a very clear idea of what music was to them. The financial system might have been in chaos, but they remained committed to music because they knew that music lasts beyond any crisis. Things are difficult right now, and there are new challenges we face that were not present during the financial crisis. As a result of the canceling of orchestral concerts and the closing down of almost all performance venues, many of our music instructors have lost an important source of income. At the same time, our students have lost the routines of their academic schooling and other

extracurricular activities as California follows a state-wide shelter-in-place order. UCM is very fortunate to have the resources to transition online and offer music lessons remotely, keeping our instructors employed and giving our students some continuity of normal life.

As we work through this difficult time, we are also taking this opportunity to improve some areas of our operations. Our director, Christopher Scherer, has put a huge focus on improving communication. The remote lessons and additional sessions we’re offering online can only be successful if there is proper communication between

instructors, students, parents, and staff. Remote lessons, while not optimal, force our teachers and our students to work harder, so when students are able to return to their lessons in person — ideally at our new offices that we’ll be moving into in May — UCM will be stronger than ever.

Music is a way for people to express themselves. Being able to perform or even just listen to music can help us stay calm when things are challenging. Music goes beyond the current moment and allows us to find the strength to look ahead. Times are tough, and we are thankful to our instructors and staff, as well as to our students and their parents, for trusting us to get through this crisis together. Though we cannot gather together physically, we are still able to maintain our community through music.

—Christopher Scherer —Leo Kim

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