The commercial space at 217 Pearl Street is available to lease, but that doesn’t mean that its previous tenants are out of business.
Heading into its 50th anniversary slated for 2021, Soli Music -- previously named Contois School of Music -- is moving to a remote, online way of teaching aspiring musicians and more seasoned artists looking to improve their skills.
Soli is now able to utilize Google Classroom for children in grades K-12. In conjunction with its Soli Music G-suite account, the school can provide students with its digital media library which houses more than 20 years of digital sheet music, custom song charts and audio tracks, and instructional videos.
While co-owner Dave Contois has been teaching music through videoconferencing for about three years, he’s now taken it to a different level with what Soli provides.
“I've basically started an online school district,” said Contois. “All the kids get their first name-last name at solimusic.com. I'm the IT manager. I control everything that goes through here. The parents get email summaries, I see every assignment that goes through from every instructor, I can chime in and add stuff. They have their own YouTube channel. I mean, it's just really, really cool. We can control it just like a school district can control their security.”
Contois and crew saw the writing on the wall in March and shut down their Pearl Street location about a week before school buildings were closed as parents started to get worried. Contois is in the process of building a recording studio in his townhouse, but all of the school’s instructors will be moving forward with teaching from afar and changing how they operate overall.
“We had a couple hundred kids go through there each week,” said Contois about the Pearl Street building, “and I don't think those days are going to come back soon. Now, we're looking for a smaller, more upscale type of, instructional school. So when we get back, we will do less kids but more of an exclusive type of thing.”
Contois has an extensive knowledge of software development surrounding music. Some of that allows him to upload files he creates into keyboards to produce a more-interactive learning environment.
“The combination of music and technology is what we're all about,” said Contois. “We really try to integrate with as much technology as we can. For instance: first graders. They usually don't use Google Classroom until they get into fourth or fifth grade, but now that they have to do this with us, we're actually teaching them how to use Google Classroom, as well as their parents. So when they get into fourth grade, they're going to be totally familiar with all this stuff; we introduce them to that technology as well.”
With music programs in schools being subject to the many changes and restrictions that other areas of education are facing, Contois said it made pure sense to move to the new model for Soli.
“Music has always been a crucial part of a child’s overall education,” said Contois. “But now more than ever, when schools aren’t able to provide the same level of access to music education, kids need to have a creative outlet and be able to pursue their musical talents.”
To learn more about Soli Music and to sign up for music lessons, visit solimusic.com or call (802) 851-7654.