The longer days and freedom from school that summer brings makes this season the perfect time for kids and teens to broaden their horizons and explore new hobbies–like picking up a musical instrument!
But how has the pandemic affected music opportunities in Saline County? And what can one expect when signing up for music lessons this season? Here are a couple of options:
ASYO Program in Little Rock
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles of Little Rock are a great opportunity for aspiring musicians and hobbyists alike to improve their skill and gain experience performing in a group. As it says on the ASYO website, students range in age from 9 to 18 and travel from over 37 communities throughout Arkansas to participate in the program.
There are a total of three orchestras within the ASYO program: Prelude, Academy, and Youth. Typically, students must submit an audition application and reserve a time during audition weekend. Auditions are held twice yearly in January and May, and each student, if admitted, is placed in an orchestra according to their skill level. However, due to the pandemic, audition dates for all ensembles have been pushed to Saturday, August 29th (all strings) and Sunday, August 30th (woodwinds, brass, percussion, piano, harp). Audition info can be found here and auditions will be submitted via YouTube.
I reached out to Barbara Burroughs, the Director of Education at ASO, to see how the pandemic has affected performances of the 2020-21 season. The good news is, the ASYO is performing this coming season! However, formal rehearsals will not begin until January 2021, and as result, the season will stretch into May.
“The Pandemic has affected our program very much since March, as we had to cancel our Spring Residency Concert with soloist Jeremy Crosmer,” Burroughs said. “And we have had to have our August auditions via YouTube only. So lots of accommodations have had to be made, but the Sturgis Music Academy–which is part of the ASO now–is going to continue with the program in the fall, via Zoom.”
Burroughs reports that Zoom has been a successful replacement for in-person practice this past spring and summer.
“They managed to continue teaching students from those schools they had been teaching in, plus continue their group and private lessons. They even had a ‘Super Practice’ Camp via Zoom and invited Youth Orchestra members to participate,” she added. “It was a blast. The Music Academy has thrived during the Pandemic.”
Ovation Music Academy
Of course, if you don’t want to play in an orchestra but are still interested in pursuing music this summer, there are many other great opportunities in Saline County, such as the Ovation Music Academy in Benton.
Ovation, established by teacher and concert violinist Oksana Pavilionis in 2011, was first a small one-room space, then a four-room space on Military Road. Today, through Pavilionis’ hard work and the success of the music school, Ovation Music Academy has been developed into a beautiful three-story building in downtown Benton.
“Now Ovation Music Academy has many rooms. My heart rejoices when I hear music playing from them.”
Pavilionis was eleven years old when she had her first teaching experience.
“One of our neighbors in Ukraine asked me to teach her daughter piano.” She added, “When I was a little girl I liked to organize ‘concerts’ with other children for my babushka and her friends. I remember taking leaves from the tree and selling them for twenty-five cents (like tickets).”
Later, Pavilionis obtained three master’s degrees in teaching music, musical performance, and psychology. In addition to being the owner of the Academy, she is also a concert violinist.
“I’m glad I play the violin because I can always go to different countries and towns and play music. Even if I cannot speak the language, music is an international language. This is what I tell my students: when you master the art of playing your instrument, you can go to different countries and you will always be able to communicate.”
Ovation offers lessons on all instruments–from strings like violin, cello, harp, mandolin, and guitar, to percussion instruments like drums, to wind instruments like tuba and saxophone.
“The majority of students are children. Some of them are coming to learn to play music in the summer since they’re not busy in school. We also have adults and seniors who are coming to accomplish their life dream.”
More information about Ovation and lessons can be found here.
Anna Colby is a high school senior. She enjoys consuming ungodly amounts of green tea and banging her head on her desk until a new idea pops into her mind and she can write once again. She also enjoys petting her dog. See a list of all her columns at www.mysaline.com/anna