San Gabriel Unified School District has added an exciting new music class for students of Del Mar High School, says Samantha Theisen, the Visual and Performing Arts Program Administrator. Originally modeled from the innovative Music Immersion Experience
(MIE) program for the district's Roosevelt Elementary School, students meet virtually online from their homes.
Beginning guitar classes typically involve a teacher who works hands on with a number of students by demonstrating the correct way to hold the instrument, proper finger placement, and maybe learn a few songs. However, since the pandemic of COVID-19 has made learning in school today anything but typical, teachers have had to find new and innovative ways to work around the absence of face-to-face meetings.
Music instructor Albert Burrola is a professional guitarist specializing in Hard Rock and Metal and has taken on the challenge of teaching kids how to play the guitar remotely; he uses programs like Zoom and other software to do his best in emulating the classroom experience with the benefit of learning something new.
However, even with the latest technology available using computers, Albert must still apply the fundamentals of teaching music and confront distractions or other issues based on the limitations of remote learning.
“It’s quite different from teaching together with students in the classroom because now I can only verbally describe where a student's hands should be positioned and use of proper posture,” he says. “With face-to-face instruction, it’s easier to show a student myself how they should be positioned, assist in repositioning their wrist or elbow, or slightly move a finger to the correct frets. Also with remote instruction, the social interaction is not as warm and it seems distant.”
Albert would probably describe himself as an old school music teacher. Having taught guitar professionally for more than 15 years, he relied on books, photocopies, and personal experience. So teaching music over the internet certainly required some adjustments by his students and himself.
“I have now adapted to virtual learning by using online videos, downloading scores and chord sheets, using online tuner apps, and creating finger charts with music software,” he says. “Whereas my students are learning the structure of the virtual guitar class by logging on the day before and accessing materials for the next lesson. This encourages independence, motivates practice routines and helps them build comfort and confidence.”
Some of Albert's students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn something new in the virtual class.
"I have always wanted to play guitar but I never owned one so I never had the chance," says freshman Alaiza. "The school let me borrow one and now I'm excited and get to make my own music."
Joey, who is a sophomore, says he enjoys making music in his spare time but the stringed instrument is new to him. "I've always wanted to learn to play but just never had time to learn."
Having seen impressive results from MIE at the elementary school level, Samantha and the district wanted to apply it at Del Mar High School.
“We’ve had a lot of success at Roosevelt Elementary in regard to test scores, discipline, culture and climate,” she says. “Because of this, the district has looked for ways to make the program grow to serve more of our district.”
The Foundation is proud to have collaborated with Guitar Center in providing the following equipment: Mitchell bass guitars, Cordoba classical guitars, a Lucero classical guitar, a LG classical guitar, Jose Ramirez guitar strings, Livewire cables, and Proline guitar stands.
"Out of hundreds of applicants, SGUSD was chosen for a generous Guitar Center Music Foundation grant this year and our program now has access to over 30 brand new, high quality instruments plus accessories and we are very grateful for its support,” says Samantha.