A California teen teaches music virtually through QuaranTunes, a new online music education service that offers free, or by donation, private lessons to children. Proceeds all go to coronavirus relief efforts. (Courtesy of QuaranTunes)
UC Santa Barbara undergraduate student Yarah Meijer was looking for something to do after coming back home to the San Francisco Bay Area when her campus shut down due to the coronavirus.
"Originally, I asked my parents if they'd be comfortable with me working at a convenience store," Meijer said. "But my dad thought I should look up volunteer work or tutoring that I could do virtually to help out."
It’s tough being cooped up at home right now, especially if you’re a teenager. But some California high school students and undergrads, like Meijer, are using their weeks in quarantine to teach music to kids — and donating the proceeds to support coronavirus relief efforts.
She's doing this through QuaranTunes, a new, online music education service that connects teen music teachers with students ages 4 to 14 who want to learn a musical instrument or sing.
The one-on-one, 40-minute coaching sessions take place via video chat (usually Zoom) at no cost to the student. Donations are encouraged, though. They all go to the CDC Foundation’s efforts to combat COVID-19.
One of Meijer's young students, Sanah Ayyar, started learning the violin a few weeks ago at home with help from her mom.
"But she’s really busy," the 11-year-old student said. "So, I haven't learned much."
She's now getting lots of tips from Meijer, including how to play with the correct posture and bow pressure, and how to use rosin.
"I guess I'll start spending more time on the violin," Ayyar said at the end of a recent lesson.
Julia Segal, a high school junior, founded QuaranTunes.
"I started learning the piano at the age of 3, and started learning voice at the age of 8," Segal said. "And currently, I'm the lead singer-songwriter of a Palo Alto-based indie-pop band called Reverie."
Segal said she was inspired to launch QuaranTunes after giving her little sister, who was bored and antsy at the start of California’s stay-at-home order, music lessons so that her parents could focus on their work.
"I realized that there are probably thousands of other families in the same situation as ours, with children who just really wanted to be kept occupied and to have fun and learn something new in quarantine, but just didn't really have the resources for that," Segal said.
Segal enlisted her musical friends as coaches, including high school senior Leo Marburg. He plays piano, ukulele and trombone, and also sings.
"It combined two things I'm interested in: music and teaching," Marburg said of QuaranTunes. "And it also felt like a great way to help out."
Marburg currently has three students, including Ariella Neymark.
At 7 years old, Neymark is a budding ukulele player.
"Do you remember the name of the strings?" Marburg asked Neymark during a ukulele lesson he recently taught via Zoom.
"Yeah. Groovy Cows Eat Apples," Neymark said, reciting a mnemonic she learned. "So: G, C, E, A."
Neymark gamely played the notes, even though she could tell her little blue ukulele was a bit out of tune — a hard thing to fix via web video.
But she said she's loving the lessons.
"I get to learn at my own speed," said the student. "And it's fun."
Her mom, Irina Neymark, said she found out about QuaranTunes on Facebook.
"It's a wonderful program that, in the current times, can connect the little ones and those in their teens and make it a positive experience," Neymark said. "It keeps them busy, as well as learning new skills."
The internet has long been awash with online learning resources for developing musicians. You can even get guitar pointers from Carlos Santana. The closure of music schools and private studios as a result of the coronavirus has increased the number of offerings in recent weeks. The San Francisco Community Music Center, for example, is one California organization that has moved many classes that would typically be taught in person, online.
QuaranTunes has only been around for a few weeks. But Segal said more than 100 students from across the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, India and Canada, have signed up for lessons. Nearly 70 teen musicians have come onboard to teach.
Segal said QuaranTunes also just started offering master classes by professionals, to help the young teachers develop pedagogical skills.
"Many of our teenage musicians are super talented," Segal said. "But they just haven't really had experience actually teaching before."
"The thing that's been driving me is the idea that although we may not be the ones on the front lines who are fighting the virus directly, we're all playing a role in helping the world fight this pandemic," Segal said. "And we're doing it through what it is that we do best, which is music."