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Remote Music Education Enriches Rural MN Music Programs

The MacPhail Center for Music's Online School Partnerships Program works with students in kindergarten through 12th grade. (Madhan R/Flickr)
The MacPhail Center for Music's Online School Partnerships Program works with students in kindergarten through 12th grade. (Madhan R/Flickr)
April 11, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS - A Minneapolis-based nonprofit is using remote learning to enrich rural and less well-funded school music programs.

The MacPhail Center for Music's Online School Partnerships Program connects districts with singers and musicians who teach classes remotely. The center has partnered with schools in the Minneapolis area for about 30 years, but now uses teleconferencing tools such as Skype to reach far-flung school districts.

Sarah Drebelbis, school partnerships manager for the MacPhail Center, said it has online partnerships with about 30 school districts, "from Karlstad, Minn., in the northwest portion of the state, all the way to Silver Bay across on the east side."

Drebelbis said grants from the State Arts Board, Otto Bremer Trust and private donations subsidize most of the program cost, so schools pay only $20 an hour for the remote classes. She said keeping the cost low is important, since the program is only meant to supplement on-site music education, not replace it.

Schools can arrange individual or small-group lessons for sections of their orchestra, band or choir. Drebelbis said teaching music online does present some challenges.

"Well, I can't ... adjust finger placement or something like that on an instrument," she said, "or do demonstrations or play live at the same time with a student, just because of some delays."

She said 12 districts are on a waiting list for the online music-education program.

More information is online at macphail.org.

Elizabeth Braun, Public News Service - MN