Orchestra offering online lessons during COVID-19 pandemic
The Junior Orchestra of Yamhill County (JOY), a local nonprofit music program that provides instruction in string instruments to elementary students, has transitioned to an online model.
Joy was founded in 2017 and only taught kindergarteners attending Edwards Elementary School during in-class hours. The program has grown significantly over the past three years, offering in-class and after-school lessons to K-3 students at the school.
As of now, only students at Edwards are eligible for tutoring, but JOY plans on expanding their services soon.
"It is our goal to have JOY open to all elementary-age students in Newberg and in Yamhill County, but at the moment, we only have enough funding to serve grades K-3 at Edwards Elementary," Danielle Howard, program coordinator of JOY, said in an email interview.
JOY is a member organization of El Sistema USA, a national non-governmental organization that aims to provide musical instruction to youth around the country.
"Our biggest goal is making music accessible to everyone regardless of where our students come from," Howard said.
Renting instruments can be expensive and some families cannot afford it. JOY offers reduced-cost rentals and, before COVID-19, had a set of violins for students to take home that they hope to reinstitute after the pandemic.
But as consistent with the trend, lessons are mostly online now.
"We introduced group and individual lesson calls on Google Hangouts to touch base and teach musical skills to students," Howard said. "We found this was the most important part of digital learning, since no matter where our students were at with their playing, it mattered that their cello, violin or viola teacher was there in the moment as a familiar face."
The program has plans to transition to a hybrid form of online and in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year. More than 200 children were registered for JOY in 2019; Howard hopes to increase that number this year despite the setbacks from COVID.
"When I first came to Newberg in 2015, I was shocked at the lack of orchestra programs in Oregon if you weren't in urban areas like Portland, Eugene and Salem," she said. "Since working for JOY, I have been renewed with a greater sense of hope that our kids can have the opportunity, no matter who they are, to be musical leaders in the community."
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