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At-Home To Online: Bold Music Lessons On The Pivot (And Power) Of Music During The Coronavirus Pandemic

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Sarah Jackyra
Bold Music Lessons co-founder George Ramsay teaches a virtual music lesson during the coronavirus outbreak.

In recent weeks, local music advocates David “Dae-Lee” Arrington (Grammy-nominated producer and co-founder of FAIR PLAY Music Equity Initiative) and Rick Thurmond (lead for Charlotte Center City Partners’ Music Everywhere CLT) have established the Charlotte Music Community COVID-19 Relief Fund, designed to help local creatives who have lost income due to the coronavirus.

Long before the outbreak, Arrington and Thurmond put in work to support the health and vibrancy of the Charlotte music ecosystem, and that same drive continues during restrictions on in-person gatherings and the seemingly indefinite pause on local arts and entertainment.

"We need music now more than ever, and we’ve got to find ways to be supportive of music and of musicians."
– George Ramsay, co-founder and CEO of Bold Music Lessons

Interview Highlights:

On the origin of Bold Music Lessons:

Dean [Williams, Bold Music Lessons co-founder] and I were both students at Davidson College, and we were both musicians. Dean was a couple years older than I was, and when Dean graduated, he took over the lesson program at a local [music] studio, and he got me my first job there. We created the idea for Bold Music out of our experience … we thought that doing in-home lessons, meaning delivering lessons to people’s houses, would be a cool niche. And that’s how it started.

On the mission of Bold Music Lessons:

In our experience, there was a need from two different fronts: musicians needed to make a living, and families needed quality instruction. So our mission from the very start was providing really good quality, high-paying and consistent work for local musicians. The level of musicianship in Charlotte was really high … and we wanted to bring top-notch music instruction to a lot more people.

On Bold Music’s approach to lessons:

We noticed that in the music education world, there were more “old school” ways of learning, like learning classical music versus learning something contemporary. So we tried to bring relevance to lessons in a way that made students feel engaged and feel like they were learning what they wanted to learn, and at the same time instilling the traditional techniques, theory and concepts that we feel are really important as musicians. So we task our instructors with what clicks with a student. And especially with younger kids, the way you keep them engaged and learning and practicing is for them to be working on things that feel relevant to them.

On Bold Music Lessons’ pivot from in-home to online music lessons:

The bread-and-butter of the business was in-home music lessons. We would set up families or students with a weekly appointment. We would get their availability, do the whole matchmaking process with one of our teachers, and figure out a day and time every week for the teacher to go to their house and teach the lessons. That grew and grew [with more teachers and students], so one thing we implemented in February [2020] that was incredibly fortuitous was video make-up lessons.

Charlotte traffic gets crazy, and as teachers got busier and busier, it became harder and harder to find the time to get back to someone’s house if someone needed to reschedule. So to make sure that those lessons still happened, because consistency is really important, we implemented video make-up lessons. So that program started February 1 [of 2020], but we spent over a year planning for it, and we were training our teachers back in October of 2019. ‘

We were incredibly lucky [to have this virtual infrastructure in place for the coronavirus outbreak and stay-at-home mandate]. I rushed home from a wedding gig in South Carolina the Sunday before [North Carolina] shut down because I knew what was about to happen: I knew that every single working musician was essentially going to be out of work, and we wanted to limit the damage to our teachers’ income. This is an incredibly difficult time for anyone in the gig economy, and a lot of musicians have run out of work. So we have to keep our teachers as busy as we possibly can, and we’re going to do everything humanly possible to do that.

On the importance of supporting Charlotte music:

We think that music is a cornerstone to culture, and in Charlotte, having a budding and thriving music community is only going to make the city better. And the city’s only going to be so good and so culturally relevant as the music. So [Bold Music Lessons] have our tentacles all over the city with all ages and all skill levels so we can help inspire the next generation of musicians.

Musicians are some of the most creative people in the world. They are some of the most hard-working people in the world. And they are some of the most resilient people in the world. What’s going to be important is for mechanisms to be in place for musicians to be valued and for creativity to be encouraged, even if it’s not in the way that we’re used to, like with live shows.

It’s important to realize the humanity here and how much some of these musicians are hurting [during the pandemic]. These musicians are so, so crucial to our enjoyment of everyday life. When I’m down, when I’m depressed, and when I’m sad, I listen to music. We need music now more than ever, and we’ve got to find ways to be supportive of music and of musicians.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

Bold Music Studio Band - “Stars Align”
Bold Music Studio Band - “Be Without You”
Bold Music Studio Band - “Be With You”
Bold Music Studio Band - “Perfect Harmony”

Stay Connected:

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Joni Deutsch was the manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, at WFAE, where also hosted the Amplified podcast and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. Joni also led WFAE's and Charlotte's first podcast festival.