Open Tone Makes Music TV To Keep Kids Learning

Photo of Open Tone Music Students preparing to play at Cleveland Cavaliers game [Open Tone Music]
[Open Tone Music]
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Homeroom: A Return to Learning 

This story is part of ideastream's special series examining the challenges and perils of returning to school during the coronavirus pandemic.

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit in March, Akron-based Open Tone Music switched its method of instruction from students gathered in a classroom to virtual, individual lessons. The non-profit group, which is affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio, provides after-school music lessons to some 300 students, most of whom are in middle school. Many of these children attend schools where music education has been eliminated for severely curtailed.

Open Tone’s founder and executive director, Chris Anderson, wanted to create a singular package showcasing what the organization does, which is to make music education accessible. He also wanted to provide an educational resource for students and other educators, so he decided to try something new: Create a video series that could be watched on YouTube.

After plenty of research and brainstorming, the first segment of “Open Tone TV” debuted in July. The 22-minute program, which features two Open Tone students as hosts, is a mix of animation, interviews and performance.

Photo of Open Tone Music students playing trumpets [Open Tone Music]

[Open Tone Music]

The first episode featured an interview and performance by Akron-based guitarist Dan Wilson. There was also a segment showcasing a dancer as well as an engaging giraffe avatar named Geri, who gave a lesson explaining rhythm, melody and harmony and how they are interrelated in a song.

Anderson said based on the feedback Open Tone received about the first episode, they will target their focus on pre-middle school students who are just being introduced to instruments.

Open Tone is continuing to offer virtual lessons, and is now providing the option of in-person lessons.  Anderson said while the virtual lessons are going well, there is an important dynamic missing when teacher and student aren’t in the same room.

Photo of Open Tone Executive Director Chris Anderson [Open Tone Music]

Open Tone Executive Director Chris Anderson [Open Tone Music]

“The energy that happens in a room just doesn't translate electronically. The teacher's feeding off the energy of the students and the students (are) feeding off the energy of the teacher. Being able to hear and catch those energies and emotions that's being transferred back and forth is just a real hard thing to do online. The assessment changes because you don't have kids interacting in person. One of the things that we've prided ourselves over the years, is being able to have this mentorship interaction and being able to help kids grow and to become leaders. Now, when you're in a digital setting, it just adds a huge, huge challenge to that,” Anderson said.

Anderson is looking forward to the day, when virtual lessons and “Open Tone TV” once again become supplements to traditional in-person teaching.

Photo of Open Tone student playing piano [Open Tone Music]

[Open Tone Music]

“You can't substitute in-person. People have been learning music and learning the arts in person for a millennia. It's just a hard thing to try to substitute that,” Anderson said.

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