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Santa Barbara Symphony Responds and Adapts to COVID-19 Environment

Music Education Center Goes Virtual: Community Hub Created to Connect Students/families with Instruments, Resources, and Translated Information

(May 5, 2020) Santa Barbara, CA – The Symphony’s mission to provide music education is perhaps more important now than it has ever been.  In response to the pandemic and social distancing measures, all programming for the Santa Barbara Symphony’s Music Education Center (MEC) has adapted to an online environment.  With support from Symphony donors and funders, the MEC is now offering virtual programming through The Santa Barbara Symphony’s Youth Ensembles programming and the Private Lesson Scholarship Program. MEC also continues to retain and employ a teaching staff of 12 local, professional musicians and two conductors to lead classes and lessons.  Each year, the Symphony’s MEC impacts more than 10,000 students throughout Santa Barbara County.

“Music education is a part of the Symphony’s DNA, and it’s crucial that even the most marginalized students be successful in continuing their music education through this time.” said Nir Kabaretti, Music and Artistic Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony. “Under the direction of Kristine Pacheco, the Symphony is leveraging the collective talents of our incredible teaching staff to sustain and strengthen the bonds with our students and families through an investment in, and use of, technology.”

Adapting to the Needs of our Community

During this unprecedented time, the disparities in education are becoming more apparent: access to adequate technology, food security, and language barriers.  In addition to the Symphony’s online course offerings, the MEC is acting as a community hub to connect students/families with instruments, resources, and translated information as needed.  Symphony staff is leveraging all of its resources to help even the most marginalized students be successful in continuing their music education through this time.

The Symphony’s MEC offers:

  • Private Lesson Scholarship program
  • Music Education educational programs include consisting of a variety of online courses, independent studies, and “chats,” plus small group sectionals for each of its four performing ensembles
  • The four performing ensembles (Bridge Orchestra, Camerata String Ensemble, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Youth Symphony) are divided into instrumental sectionals resulting in 18 separate online course offerings.  For example, the Bridge Orchestra divides into advanced violin sectional, beginner violin sectional, viola sectional, and cello sectional.  Every sectional class meets for 1 hour every week over the video conference platform Zoom.
“Thank you so much for the opportunity to do a Music Independent Study Project! I am so grateful to be paired with a teacher-mentor who is so kind and knowledgeable. I am learning so much!”
Youth Symphony Student

The MEC has retained a teaching staff that consists of local, professional musicians.  During this time, professional musicians are losing immense amounts of work. Providing valuable teaching hours supports the Symphony’s community of Teaching Artists. These Teaching Artists are given creative license on what their courses consist of but stay within the frame of classical music education.  Subjects of these classes include: honing instrumental technique, note-reading, audition preparation, practice strategies, journaling, and critical listening.  

“Thank you so much for continuing to provide music classes for our daughter. She practices her instrument every day and is so motivated and inspired to submit recording assignments. I have never seen her so interested in a subject!”
Parent of a Bridge Orchestra student

One of the most important aspects of the online music program is to deepen relationships with our community of students, families, and teachers.  The Symphony has been able to reach students on a personal level by serving them through these smaller sectional groups..  Teaching Artists are taking time during class to check in with students on their mental well-being and to listen to their needs.  Parents are encouraged to reach out and make suggestions on what they want to see for Youth Ensembles in the future.  In short, even though we are unable to meet in person and are connecting virtually, the Symphony continues the work of providing quality music education that uplifts the creative voices of our community’s students.

The Santa Barbara Symphony looks forward to sharing the upcoming season of thrilling and inspired programming with the community and visitors alike! For more information on the Santa Barbara Symphony, or its programming, visit

About The Santa Barbara Symphony

Now in its 71st year, The Santa Barbara Symphony delivers artistic excellence, outstanding music education stewardship and programming, and community collaboration – all through symphonic music. Under the artistic leadership of Maestro Nir Kabaretti as Music & Artistic Director since 2006, The Symphony is one of the region’s premier cultural institutions. Through his charismatic leadership, this globally admired conductor and Santa Barbara resident invigorates audiences and musicians alike through his passion, creativity, and vast experience. As the only music education program tied to a professional symphony orchestra in the region, The Symphony serves more than 4,000 students annually throughout Santa Barbara County. While The Symphony continues to evolve, bringing joy, engagement, and connection remain steadfast pillars of its mission and were evident in the organization’s ability to thrive during the pandemic including the historic announcement that board chair Janet Garufis and President & CEO Kathryn R Martin join Nir Kabaretti in making a five-year commitment to serve in their roles. For more information, visit

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