Like many businesses in Cincy, Cincinnati School of Music had to temporarily close its physical doors due to stay-at-home orders issued because of COVID-19. However, the music school quickly took steps to offer virtual classes, which allowed students to receive high-quality music education while staying safe at home.
Cincinnati Parent talked to Anna Backer, the owner and director of Cincinnati School of Music, about CSM’s quick pivot to online music education and their mission to transform lives through music — especially during this crisis.
It’s been a tumultuous last few months. How are you holding up?
The last few months have been a challenge. Despite sustaining losses, we have worked day and night — like many small businesses — to keep our people safe. My husband Joe and I started following the news about COVID-19 back in February, and we worked around the clock to ensure that CSM was ready for the chaos that struck in early March. We came up with a plan and let our teachers and students know exactly what to expect.
At first, we didn’t know how everyone would handle the switch to virtual learning. But we have been humbled by the response of students and families, who have adapted to remote learning and remained committed to their lessons. By staying at CSM, these families have not only allowed our business to survive this challenging time, they have also provided desperately needed income to so many local musicians who have lost wages due to the cancellation of gigs and events that they rely on throughout the year. Our teachers, too, have shown dedication and creativity, adapting quickly to the new platform. Joe and I could not be prouder. It has not been easy to keep up with the rapidly evolving requirements for local businesses, but we are proud also of our extraordinary administrative team, who have consistently provided prompt, friendly assistance throughout the transition to remote learning.
What are you doing to keep Cincinnati School of Music up and running during this time?
We use a number of apps and platforms to keep our team safe as they continue providing an exceptional learning experience for our students. After a lot of research, we’ve found that Zoom’s features best meet the needs of our community, including ease, stability, convenience, and security. In addition, the platform LessonMate has been a game-changer for CSM, and we now make it available free-of-charge to all our students.
One unexpected blessing we’ve experienced during this transition is the ability to provide opportunities to teachers and students outside the Cincinnati area. Since we started offering music lessons via Zoom, we have enrolled new students from Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and even as far away as Germany! We have instructors working remotely from Virginia, Texas and Taiwan. We are thrilled by the opportunity to connect with people across the world!
What are some of the ways you’re staying connected with the community/helping the community during this time?
We are proud that we have been able to continue providing work for over 50 professional musicians while also keeping all of our administrative staff on payroll. We believe in doing everything we can — even cutting our own pay — to provide our workers with stability throughout this challenging time.
We remain active on social media, including Facebook and Instagram. We love seeing families share highlights of their musical progress, particularly with the help of virtual lessons through CSM. Our own family has experienced the benefits of virtual music lessons. Our oldest child has been able to continue her weekly sessions with her piano teacher, working towards new goals, developing confidence, and fostering creative self-expression in a fun and educational medium.
We are also humble contributors to Melodic Connections, a local nonprofit that provides music education and music therapy to people of all ages and abilities.
And we are thrilled to announce CSM’s new Summer Sampler Series, which will provide free instructional videos for anyone interested in exploring different musical instruments and learning fundamental concepts and techniques this summer.
Right now, everything still feels very uncertain. What are you hoping for the future?
At CSM, we hope to provide some measure of stability during this crisis, by offering convenient, uninterrupted music education at the highest level, with friendly customer service that our clients can rely on seven days a week.
Our mission is to transform lives and build lasting relationships. We can’t wait to start providing in-person lessons again this summer, all the while ensuring the health and safety of everyone in our community. We are actively monitoring Governor Dewine’s latest updates and guidelines.
Whatever happens, Cincinnati School of Music will be here for you.