Hi, this is Christopher Sutton from Musical U, and this will be a special short announcement episode to invite you to Stay In - and Play On.
If you're watching this episode when it airs then you'll be well aware of the current situation with the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19.
Now I'm not here to offer health advice or news updates - no doubt you've got enough of that flying at you already. But it seems clear that the sooner people self-isolate, the more lives can be saved.
I’m here in Spain on total lockdown with my wife and two young daughters - and although it’s all a bit crazy, we are all in good health so far.
And if you're like most in our community at Musical U then faced with that prospect of staying in for several weeks ahead, you're quickly turning to music as a rock you can rely on. I’m glad that my home office is always packed with instruments so I can keep playing. I did have a momentary panic when a guitar string broke - but it’s okay, it turned out I had a spare set.
Now I don't want to trivialise this and say "hey, never mind, let's all just have fun and play music!" - this is a serious situation.
But at the same time, music can be an incredible force for keeping our spirits high, helping us stay connected with one another, inspiring us to hope and be thankful. And with the opportunity to spend more time on our music learning it even offers a possible silver lining, that we can come out of this situation with new and better skills, feeling more musical, eager to go out there and enjoy performing and collaborating at a new level once life returns to normal.
So I wanted to record this special episode to share some cool things that are happening right now which can help you make the most of any extra music time you may find you have.
First off, you can expect Musicality Now to continue as normal. We took a short break - and I'll share in a minute what we were busy with elsewhere - but we're back on track for an episode per week, possibly more, so that you can always count on that new episode to listen to or watch.
Beyond this show though there's actually a lot of other stuff available for you that I didn't want you to miss out on.
Here at Musical U over the last week, as it's become increasingly clear how many people likely face lockdown for weeks or even months, and that the sooner people start self-isolating the better - we've been talking with members and brainstorming in the team, trying to figure out how we can best serve you all in the weeks ahead.
Last week we announced a few quick measures for members, which I'll just mention because I know we have a lot of members who listen to the show and you may have missed that announcement. We will be keeping our doors open at Musical U and doing everything we can to make sure you can rely on us for "service as normal" throughout this period. And we're also doing a few extra things based on what we've been hearing from you.
Firstly we know a lot of folks are facing financial difficulties with their work interrupted so we're offering an amnesty on membership payments for anybody who needs it. We don't want your membership payment to be a source of stress and we'd hate to lose you from the community.
Secondly, we were hearing that many of you anticipated more time available for music practice, but your regular activities like local group rehearsals or performances were all cancelled so you needed something new to sink your teeth into. So for a limited time we've dropped the prices of all five of our standalone courses in half for you - that's Foundations of a Musical Mind, The Musician's Ear, Ear Training For Beginners, The Circle Mastery Experience and even our latest course, Improv Immersion.
We're also shaping up plans for more regular drop-in Q&A sessions where you can connect with the team and other members, virtual jam sessions, a member “perks” page with exclusive discounts and offers on recommended products and services, and a new series of live masterclasses with outside experts for you. And of course we'll be continuing to talk with you in the community to find out what you most want and how we can help.
So that's members. We also wanted to do something to help our wider audience who aren't yet members, like our Facebook fans and email subscribers.
So last week we launched a series of free daily masterclass reruns - one hour-long music masterclass every day for a week, free of charge. We have an incredible masterclass library inside Musical U and so it’s been exciting to share some of the highlights more widely, with sessions from folks like "The Learning Coach" Gregg Goodhart, vocal coach Davin Youngs, improv extraordinaire the late Forrest Kinney, and several more. And we've had such a great response to those with hundreds tuning in for every session, we're going to keep that party going with a few more daily masterclasses at least.
Along with those masterclass sessions I wanted to provide a way for those who were eager to get access to even more. So even though we don't usually offer a free trial of Musical U membership, for a limited time we're offering free membership for a full 30 days, with no obligation and no strings attached. So if you miss a masterclass you wanted to catch, or you want to watch them all, or you want the full in-depth skill training that complements them or you want to connect with other music learners like you during this time, then you can come in, try it all for the next month, and not pay a penny. We do of course hope you'll choose to stay, and you can enjoy a big discount on regular pricing if you do - but there's no pressure and no obligation, you're able and welcome to come in, use it all, including the new special events we’re organising for members - and then leave at the end with no payment required.
So that felt like a good start, to do what we can to help our community and wider audience stay engaged in fun, productive music learning at this time.
Of course if you know us here at Musical U you'll know we never pretend to be the one true be-all-and-end-all of music learning - we love to collaborate with and help recommend other amazing online music educators. So from the outset we were also looking for ways to go beyond just what we at Musical U can provide ourselves.
This week we went ahead and added a new "Friends" page to the Musical U website. You can find that by going to musical-u.com and clicking "Friends" in the top me…. This is something we were working on anyway as part of bigger website changes to showcase our mission and more of what we're all about here at Musical U - but given the circumstances it seemed smart to go ahead and make sure all visitors to our site had easy access to our top recommendations for other resources that can help you in your journey of becoming more musical.
As you can probably imagine, that wasn't an easy page to put together! Because I wanted to include pretty much every single one of the amazing guests we've had interviewed here on the show! We did have some particular criteria for who to include though, which is a bit hard to explain until those fuller website changes are made. But just to say if you spot any notable absences, folks like Brent Vaartstra at Learn Jazz Standards, for example, who you know we highly recommend and consider a good "friend" of Musical U - that's no slight on his work, it's just about the particular framing of that page, which will hopefully become clear in due course.
As well as that Friends page, over the last week I've been reaching out to all our friends and contacts in music education to see what they have planned, and paying attention to what's been going on in the various music teacher groups online.
A lot of us have been trying to figure out how to adjust what we do to best serve music learners at this time, and a lot of music teachers have been hastily making the shift to online teaching. A big shout out to some of the amazing teachers-of-teachers like Sara Campbell, Glory St. Germaine, Bradley Sowash, Tim Topham, Anne Mileski and Melody Payne who've been rapidly providing special training and guidance to help with that transition.
So there's a lot going on! And to help you stay musical and stay connected we've put together a special page at stayinplayon.com with details of everything I've mentioned.
You'll find there the free daily Musical U masterclasses and whatever we do next after that, you'll find a list of all the special resources and opportunities with other music education providers online that we know about, as well as a way to let us know if you come across any we've missed. And we're also compiling a list of independent teachers who are accepting new online students at this time if you're looking for something new or you want to support music teachers at this difficult time.
We're also encouraging you to share what you're doing to stay musical during this time, by posting on your social media of choice, whether that's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever Snapchatty Tik-Toky thing the cool kids are using these days, with the hashtag #stayinplayon - so that even if you're not joining us for our group activities inside Musical U we can all still feel connected and inspire one another to draw on music as our comfort, our refuge and our silver lining at this time.
I would love to hear what you're up to - but instead of our usual invitation to drop us an email I'm going to ask you to put it out there on social media for more people to see and be inspired by. Hashtag it #stayinplayon and we'll see it there.
So head over to stayinplayon.com and check out everything that’s happening and I hope to see you at some of the live events we’re organising for members and the public in the weeks ahead.