2020 was looking good for Chris Maunders until it wasn’t, his harmonica tutoring program Harp's a Breeze was going along swimmingly with thousands of students coming around to his way of thinking, ie the harp is a great way to get involved in music, rewarding and inexpensive to get started with.
But when the virus arrived things took a turn for the worse, he says, “Unfortunately, within 1 week, I lost 2,000 students across Victoria who were enrolled in my harmonica incursion for 2020. I had to make the decision of whether to stop and wait for schools to get back into a normal routine, or adapt to online learning.”
If there is a profession that requires some resilience it’s music and Maunders adapted the program to an online format, it proved to be a good move.
“I reluctantly transitioned online not expecting it to go so well, although I was fortunate enough to teach approximately 400 students how to play the harmonica in the initial school closures during term 2. The response I received from these schools was outstanding, so much so that I was asked to extend the program to ensure the students could continue refining their skills on a new musical instrument.
“It proved very useful for teachers struggling to transition online and was a great addition for schools without a pre-existing music program in their curriculum.
"I designed the online course with versatility, ensuring students could easily follow from home in remote-learning as well as regular classroom settings,” he says.
Upon enrollment, schools receive individually sealed "Harmonica Packs", each pack contains a new 10-hole diatonic harmonica in the key of C, easy to read melody booklet, weekly homework and online access to step-by-step harmonica tutorials.
“Since the start of the pandemic, I have produced 2 months of high-definition tutorials. By transitioning online, I have been able to teach children in areas I would not normally be able to access by car, and the course is currently being followed by primary schools throughout Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, as well as individual students in the United States, Canada and France!
“We were also approached by Vision Australia to provide blind and visually impaired children in isolation with online harmonica lessons. This was some of the most rewarding work Harp's a Breeze has been involved in and we had the opportunity to work alongside Vision Australia and Creative Victoria to invent a unique Braille system for the harmonica. The participants loved it.
“It has certainly been a difficult year for workshop curators, though the pandemic has opened doors to completely new extra-curricular programs with completely new teaching styles. Harp's a Breeze has been very lucky to be part of that and we are very excited for 2021,” he says.