Music for everyone

Me n ukes is from Empower Though Music’s 3rd annual Free Music Lesson Day held Feb. 23 at Horizon School of Music. | Photo courtesy of Horizon School of Music

“Between our passion for music and helping people, it just seemed like a logical step to open a school where we were open for everyone, every type of learning, every age and had essentially no barriers,” says Kris Schulz, co-owner and operator of Horizon School of Music.

Schulz, who teaches electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals and composition and theory, runs the school along with his wife Jill, who teaches piano, vocals and composition and theory..

“I just think [music] is a healthy thing for the mind, for people’s well being, for their confidence and keeping them active with something that’s positive,” says Schulz.

You don’t have to be a professional

“There’s this widely accepted perception that people can’t play music unless they’re gifted; that’s something I’ve found to be completely untrue,” says Schulz.

He says there are schools geared towards creating professional musicians that don’t really see music as something you would do just for you. As a result, Schulz and his wife felt the need to create a space where people as young as four and those well into their 80s could learn music because it’s fun and a way to improve their lives.

The school also offers three free online 40-minute group sessions at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels where everyone is welcome. Schulz says the goal has always been to get as many people as possible to learn and connect, even if they can’t afford it.

“There’s no catch, this is just a chance for people to learn from a professional and have fun,” he says.

Going online

Although the school has always offered a small number of classes online, when the NBA cancelled their season, Schulz knew the pandemic was getting serious and immediately started training his staff to teach all of their classes online.

“At first, everyone was reluctant to try it,” he says.

But after working through the initial technological barriers, Schulz found that people liked the consistency of still having their lessons. Not only has the feedback been overwhelmingly positive, he says, but the lessons have become even more meaningful where both student and teacher are really appreciating each other.

One of those teachers is Rocky Riobo, who Schulz met at a benefit concert and hired on the spot without even hearing her perform.

“From her personality, I just knew she was exactly the kind of person we wanted on the team,” says Schulz.

Teaching from home

“This school is really unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced, Jill and Kris are unfathomably so wonderful and caring that to be a part of anything they’re a part of, I’ve been really lucky,” says Riobo, vocal, theory and ukulele teacher.

Riobo gets excited when people ask her what she does.

“I’m sort of teaching music, but I’m teaching you to teach yourself music,” she says.

From her bedroom, every lesson starts out the same. Riobo asks the student on the other end of her screen how they’re doing as a quick check in to make sure they’re okay and if they’re not, that’s okay too.

“It’s a safe space,” she says.

Riobo explains that going online during this pandemic has given her an honest platform to say how she’s really feeling and allow her students to do the same.

Going online has also forced some of her students to acquire new tech skills that not only allow them to connect with her for lessons, but also to connect them with the rest of their world.

“Music has been a really happy balance of something for myself and something for others, at the same time,” says Riobo.

Riobo says she wants her students to leave their lesson having acquired something greater than the last lesson, and Schultz agrees.

“It’s not just another day of teaching, everyone is going through something and we’re all in this together. Even though it’s just music, we’re happy to do our part,” says Schulz.

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