Showing Up in Crisis Times

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

Showing Up in Crisis Times

Christopher Schroeder, Executive Director, Boston Music Project (Formerly Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program), Boston, MA


The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our communities in unimaginable ways. It has exposed great inequities in our society, tested the financial stability of our organizations, and forced programs to rapidly explore new methods of connectivity, storytelling, and fundraising. On the other hand, it has also offered opportunities for programs to demonstrate their resilience. As many educators say, it’s better to show than tell. Right now, our students are watching how we show up for them in times of crisis.

JQOP’s adaptive process was driven by our founding principle—the power of music to build and anchor communities. Leading with this core belief made our next steps clear. In addition to providing weekly private lessons, we deliver online synchronous morning music class every weekday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Our vision has been to retain our community’s daily sense of connection, help maintain routines, and give caregivers an hour to themselves every morning.

The community has responded with overwhelming positivity and gratitude. Not only were we able to continue our programming with minimal interruption, we also retained our team of 28 teaching artists—many of whom were severely impacted by loss of freelance work.

El Sistema leaders across the country say that the first week of online teaching felt like their first year of teaching crammed into five days. Despite this frantic atmosphere, positives emerged. Lorrie Murray, Executive Director of the Bay Area Music Project, shared that “our online private lessons provide focused attention for many kids who struggled in group settings, feeling embarrassed to speak out. Private lessons have provided an extra layer of self-confidence.” Other programs have developed new ways to showcase teaching artists and students. “Our virtual concerts are setting the stage to build virtual ‘friend-raisers’ and expand our online audience hugely,” explained Soundscapes Cofounder Rey Ramirez. “They are establishing a new platform to showcase student work and stay connected to our community.” Here in Boston, JQOP has been practicing more student-directed learning, involving students and families in the planning of our spring classes and summer programming.

This spring and summer, take note of the positives in your virtual teaching. Be the creative problem-solvers you are hardwired to be. Use this time for thoughtful experimentation to find the silver linings and model the traits we aim to instill in our students. Now, more than ever, we must show up.


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