• The Star Staff

Local musician stands strong amid COVID-19 to keep music and arts teaching alive

Inmuse Music and Arts Institute owner readapts to help children and adults keep learning new creative skills and break away from routine

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

It was a lively scene: younglings were able to gather to learn how to play a tune, find the right note, brush a stroke of color, draft a picture on a canvas or even learn how to stand gracefully on the tips of their toes. However, as a virus spread exponentially around the world, many had to go back home and stay safe.

To bring sound, color, lines, and movements back amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Marline Ríos Ramos, owner of Inmuse Music and Arts Institute, had to readapt the fine arts courses that her academy offers in the city of Caguas with safety measures in order to keep both students and employees safe from the coronavirus and help them find their muse again.

Ríos Ramos said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the institute had about 200 students enrolled in courses such as music (theory, singing, instruments), visual arts, and classical ballet; however, with the COVID-19 pandemic arriving in March, even though the majority of students had been attending classes during the first weeks of the term, once the island went into lockdown only 25 percent of the enrolled students remained active taking online courses.

“Before, in our classrooms, our groups were not as big so teachers could provide individual attention within group teaching and supervise each children’s activities in each class,” Ríos Ramos said. “Now, in virtual classes, it was very difficult to have the same dynamic. We tried, but we really couldn’t fulfill anything, which is why we had to change from group classes to one-on-one virtual courses.”

Nonetheless, the professional musician told the Star, from mid-July until the end of August she was able to increase student enrollment from 25 percent to 55 percent. More than half of the students she received were completely new.

“Many people, amid the pandemic, decided to work on something new, to learn, as many are staying at their homes, and really, they are trying to find new ways to [take a] break from their routine while at home,” Ríos Ramos said. “The majority are now professional adults and college students, while before, most enrolled students were children and teenagers.”

As for classical ballet courses, Ríos Ramos said the students are able to have individual live sessions via videoconference and complementary modules to keep practicing. She said most of her ballet students consist of three- to seven-year-old girls and, due to the pandemic, their mother or guardian must participate in the session to provide guidance.

“The girls are not alone, their moms have to be part of the class, contrary to before, when the girl was by herself in the classroom along with her companions,” she said.

As of today, Ríos Ramos said that amid the COVID-19 pandemic Inmuse Music and Arts Institute is now offering individual classes both virtually and in person as the governor’s most recent executive order gives permission to do so. Now, for in-person courses, students or legal guardians must request a monthly reservation at a specified day and time. This way, they will be able to attend every week for a 30-minute face-to-face music course, or a 45-minute individual visual arts course.

“The student has the class with the teacher and without other students around the area,” she said. “Once the class is over, the classroom is sanitized, we disinfect the instruments and we receive the next student.”

Meanwhile, Ríos Ramos said she is intent on continuing to find ways to maintain her enterprise, which provides jobs to 10 teachers and keeps students inspired.

“We now have to take time from our weekends, Sundays included, to keep contact with our students through calls, [and] videocalls,” she said. “We are trying to make it feel like an in-person class; our phones are always available in case they need to call us at any moment. We are available now for our students 24/7.”

Those interested in Inmuse Music and Arts Institute classes, enrollment and offerings can access the institute through its Facebook page, on its webpage inmuseinstitute.com and via phone at 787-909-4212. Inmuse is located on Luis Muñoz Rivera Avenue (near Hima Hospital) in Caguas.

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