Staying Active and Engaged

Yesterday you read all about the kinds of training and professional development activities that are available to Music Academy fellows as part of the Music Academy Remote Learning Institute (MARLI). From lessons and studio classes to a full innovation curriculum, our 134 fellows are being kept quite busy. The curriculum and training opportunities are only part of MARLI, though. Just as important are the many wellness and social activities offered.

With gyms closed and people around the world embracing that work from home life, it can be hard to stay active. Staying at home doesn’t have to mean staying still, though! That’s why the Academy has again partnered with Bond Fitness to provide access to world-class workouts from the comfort of their own homes. Yoga and equipment-free workouts are offered twice per week during the first four weeks of MARLI. Fellows can join these 30-minute sessions by tuning in to a live stream, or they can watch a recording that is made available after the fact. Twice-weekly mindfulness sessions and weekly sessions in Alexander Technique—which focuses on movement efficiency and posture—round out the wellness offerings.

A typical Summer Festival is also filled with a whole range of social activities, so it was very important that some social components be included as part of the Remote Learning Institute. Each of the first four weeks of MARLI includes a social event office hour. These are optional gatherings that allow the fellows to get to know each other through activities curated by the Academy’s Student Services team. Week one’s social event was called “friend dating,” a fast-paced activity where fellows took turns pairing off to get to know one another. Think speed dating, but with friendships!

An equipment-free cardio workout, courtesy of Bond Fitness

Bond Fitness hosts an online yoga session from Kuehn Court at the Music Academy

One of the most unique aspects of the Music Academy of the West is the Compeer Program, which pairs every one of our fellows with volunteer members of our community. These compeers attend fellows’ performances and plan gatherings ranging from pool parties to wine tasting. Fellows often form lifelong relationships with their Compeers, many of whom come to feel like family.

2020 MARLI Cello fellow Emma Lee Zooms with Compeers Linda and Peter Beuret

The Compeer Program continues this year—changed, but unabated! Each of the participating Compeers was matched with one or more fellows, an already complex task that was made all the more complicated by the fact that everyone is scattered across the globe. The Student Services team worked to ensure that every pairing of Compeer and fellow had a convenient time they could meet over Zoom, sometimes working around as many as three different time zones! Suggested activities like a game night or a virtual tour of Santa Barbara help guide these weekly meetings, although Compeers often choose to plan their own online outing.

Dealing with a world temporarily defined by social distancing has taken a toll on everyone, and the difficult task of adjusting to this new normal can be daunting. That’s why the inclusion of wellness and social activities into the very fabric of MARLI was so necessary. Encouraging the fellows to focus on their mental and physical health along with their artistry is key, as is encouraging socialization at a time when many people feel isolated. In speaking about the Virtual Compeer Program Music Academy Dean Tiffany DeVries said the online interaction with members of our community allows fellows to “feel that there is an audience behind the screen, even if they can’t see them.” Through these programs our fellows, our partners, and members of our community—Music Academy family all—are making connections that will only be strengthened when our MARLI fellows are invited join us in person for the 2021 Summer School and Festival.

For more information on the Academy’s Compeer Program, click here.

– Henry Michaels
Resonance editor, Audience Services and Community Access Manager, Music Academy of the West