by Natalie Archangel and Mark Montijo

We have survived two years of pandemic and made it to 2022. Negotiating these times has become nearly normalized; masks and social distance are no longer strange or novel – it’s just what we do.
We have discovered the unexpected efficiency of remote work and the striking versatility of Zoom and Teams meetings. The joy of not commuting has dulled the sting for a great many members of the American workforce. It has also given many of us the gift of increased leisure time. And with that, people are pursuing long dormant artistic interests and talents.
Music education has certainly ignited. Just ask Brad Sears, the owner of Consumer Music in Vallejo, California, which has historically served the community with both retail sales and music lessons.
“During this pandemic, I have seen an explosion of interest in the arts! It is just amazing to see the influx of new people who may have wanted to experience making music but never felt there was space for it in their lives,” states Sears. He notes an increased demand for instruction in piano, guitar and stringed instruments as well as a significant interest in small home studio workstations.
“The power of creating music and the ability to share through podcast, YouTube, Facebook – it is literally amazing, and that has done so much to help people make it through these dark times.”
Sears estimates that enrollment in all classes (vocals, guitar, drums, keyboards, woodwinds, brass and strings) is currently at seventy-five percent of pre-pandemic levels.
Consumer Music, as well as most other educational institutions, also offers Zoom classes. “Zoom classes make up about five percent at this point, but it is a wonderful way to connect and learn in complete safety. I was lucky enough to have savvy teachers who can negotiate the virtual space and make it real for the students!”
One such teacher is multi-instrumentalist Anthony Moraila, who gives both in person and Zoom classes on guitar, piano, ukulele, trumpet, saxophone and voice.
“Teaching during the pandemic has made me aware of the wonderful technologies that exist for music teachers to make learning easier and more exciting. While I love to interact in the same room, the technology is just incredible, intuitive and accessible to all levels of tech skill,” says Moraila.
Consumer Music recently resumed the much loved but suspended monthly showcase of student talent (with professional musicians as special guests) called “The Songbird Lounge.” The Songbird provides a safe and supportive place for members of the community to put their talent on display and shine.
With so many ways to learn, create and express, 2022 may herald a mini-Renaissance of creativity in the East Bay and beyond.