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Online music school keeps Barrie siblings busy, driven, jazzed up

Peggy Vanden Heuvel's two children, aged eight and 10, take lessons with Barrie Music School

Peggy Vanden Heuvel knows the power of music. 

The south-end Barrie resident's two children — eight-year-old Max and 10-year-old Sam — take lessons with Barrie Music School. Max is taking drum lessons with Stan White, while Sam is receiving guitar lessons from Nate Douglas.

"When it was announced that schools and non-essential business were to close, we thought that our kids would no longer have access to this wonderful group of musicians," Vanden Heuvel told BarrieToday. "Fortunately, the music school came up with options for online classes, via Skype and Facetime."

She says it has changed the atmosphere in the house. 

"Having an instructor in our home has taken away a lot of the stress from me as a parent," Vanden Heuvel added. "We don't have to constantly tell them to do this. They know they're going to see Stan, or they know they're going to see Nate, in a couple of days. They want to accomplish what their last lesson was."

The siblings have been learning from their instructors since October, before the world came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus, but the lessons have come in particularly handy during self-isolation around COVID-19. 

"Before we started the online schooling, it was the only relief we had," Vanden Heuvel said. "For a half-hour, the kids were focused on somebody else telling them to do something. And then it would just leap-frog: they'd have new lessons, a new drive and a new goal that they'd try to finish before their next lesson.

"Without that in this house, we would have gone crazy," she added. 

With the kids off school for March Break and then schools being closed for the foreseeable future due to the virus, the online lessons have been well-received. 

"When they started offering this, it was such a big deal for us," Vanden Heuvel said. 

Max and Sam still have several blocks in their day to devote to their online schoolwork, which the province began offering this week. 

"They can pretty much finish it before noon, so there's a lot of free time," she said. "They can still focus on school and the music lessons, and they still look forward to it. It's just become another way to speak to an adult that isn't mom or dad telling them what to do all the time."

It also allows them to have a back-and-forth conversation with someone with specifics when it comes to technique, as opposed to just learning from a video. 

"These little stops and starts add to a richer learning environment," Vanden Heuvel said. "It's not just them watching a video; it's someone interacting with them. Before, you could never have that."

Technology has come a long way to even allow for such a thing. 

"Before, you would have to get a book. But you wouldn't have been able to get a book, because the libraries are closed," Vanden Heuvel said.

Music is a big part of their family. 

"We listen to a lot of jazz and we take them to music festvals," she said. "The Montreal Jazz Festival was a big deal.

"It enriches them at a different level than just a pop song."

Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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