Keewatin Elementary School’s music classes welcomed performing artist Gaelynn Lea for a virtual visit Friday, May 8. With schools closed and students learning from home due to the COIVD-19 response, Lea was not able to come to the school for her scheduled in-person visit. Instead, Lea worked with Classical Minnesota Public Radio (MPR)/American Public Media through the Class Notes Concert program to bring her music to the students.

David Kuusisto, music teacher at Keewatin Elementary School, said distance teaching and learning can be a challenge for music classes.

“There is a person to person connection you create when performing music together in one room,” Kuusisto commented.

“I miss the nuance. Teachers are working overtime to connect with students, but it is not the same as being together.”

According to Classical MPR, Lea was born with a disability known as osteogenesis imperfecta. Lea plays the violin from her electric wheelchair by holding the instrument upright like a small cello. There are a total of five videos where Lea talks about her instrument, how to use a looping pedal, writing songs, using music to help manage strong emotions, and ending with a sing-a-long.

Gaelynn Lea’s virtual visit to our school has brought a lot of joyful responses from our students and their families,” said Principal of Keewatin Elementary School Annie Olson-Reiners. “I’m so thankful that we live in a time and place where art, curiosity, and celebration of different abilities can be merged together and shared so easily across time and space. I’m also thankful that we’re able to bring the playful joy of music making to our students’ homes during a time that can feel isolating and uncertain. Gaelynn Lea’s gift of time and creativity have brightened our students’ educational experience of COVID-19 distance learning.”

Kuusisto has received positive feedback from students and families about the videos shared.

He said, “One family comments: ‘Dear Mr. Kuusisto, The kids thoroughly enjoyed the videos you shared. They want to write their own music. This inspiringly beautiful curriculum has been a very positive addition to our children’s distance learning. Happy Teacher Appreciation week!’”

While Kuusisto, and many other teachers and school staff, are missing their students, opportunities such as this help to make these situations a little easier.

“The ability to connect individually with a student within a class/group online setting, albeit at a distance, is a great way to help many students who need that little boost to keep up without stopping the flow of the class,” Kuusisto added. “In the end, I miss being together and look forward to going back to school.”

To learn more about Gaelynn Lea’s music and to view the educational videos, visit https://www.classicalmpr.org/story/2020/05/01/classical-kids-music-lessons-class-notes-concert-featuring-gaelynn-lea.

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