A student practices through online learning.

In response to the coronavirus “Shelter In Place” guidelines, Kingwood Music School on West Lake Houston Parkway and its over 25 music teachers have been forced to stop offering face-to-face music lessons for the duration. When it happened in March, school owners Janis Fehlauer and her husband, Carlos Gaviria, (both music teachers themselves) suddenly found themselves without a business, without students and with no teachers able to teach. It all happened during the Humble ISD Spring Break when students were already on a music break. Those students never came back to the school. But they did come back, online.

When the Shelter In Place order went into effect, Fehlauer and Gaviria immediately shifted from on-site instruction to private online instruction. Using the wonders of the internet, the school’s teachers were able to work “live” with their students. The music lessons continued with hardly a delay following Spring Break and will continue until students and teachers can return to the more traditional instruction environment at the music school.

“We were lucky that all our students transitioned online right after Spring Break and everyone has been great about it,” Fehlauer said, explaining the positive effort both the teachers and the students’ families made to make it work.   

However, as the transition to online lessons became a reality, Fehlauer and Gaviria realized everything was changing for everyone. Students and their families suddenly found themselves cooped up at home all day, likely with time on their hands and not a lot to do, even with the public schools teaching everyone online. 

“I have two young kids as well, six and four, so I know that ‘cabin fever’ setting in was definitely something I can relate to,” Fehlauer said.

She and Gaviria wanted to give the students a little more to keep them busy during this time and provide musical enjoyment and education through more than just YouTube videos. As a result, they launched a free online music program to augment their routine music instruction with classes and lessons designed to provide a wider musical experience for their students and families. They called it “Cabin Fever Busters.” 

“What’s different about Cabin Fever Busters is they’re all live and they are taught by professional musicians,” Fehlauer said. She and Gaviria, through their extensive network of friends and associates around the country, have been able to partner with a few other music schools to provide much of the content of the free Cabin Fever Busters classes.

“We have about 40 hours of classes lined up in the next month. There is really something for everyone, like classes for young kids and even toddlers. There are intros to guitar classes or the ukulele, so if you have an old guitar or ukulele sitting around you can pick it up and actually get a real introduction to it by a professional. We have family-style music for yoga and a whole range of things we wanted to give our students,” Fehlauer said.

The lesson programs also include things like music trivia tournaments, young children music classes, drum lessons, violin lessons, “garage band” classes, fiddle classes, rock band jams and a host of others. Fehlauer explained one of the lessons is called “Virtual Choir,” in which vocalists record their parts and the school edits them into large video layering and audio presentations.

“This is a great way for students to break cabin fever, try new instruments, expand their music abilities, and the parents have been having a blast as well. It also gives parents back much-needed time as they have to adjust with having a house full of children who are ready to have their energy channeled in a positive and educational way,” Fehlauer said. She explained the online lessons and the Cabin Fever Busters Program will continue as long as “Shelter In Place” is in effect. The school will return to its traditional in-person music curriculum when schools and businesses can reopen.

Bruce Olson
Author: Bruce OlsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I have been married since 1970 to Kerry, my best friend and a great Australian woman. I served and survived Vietnam in the U.S. Air Force. I fought forest fires in the summer while in college, where I earned a B.A. in economics from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas. I retired from Continental Airlines. I have a son and two granddaughters in Kingwood, and a daughter and two grandsons on a farm near Mazabuka, Zambia. I am now enjoying life as a grandfather, Tribune correspondent and Humble ISD guest teacher when not traveling to Zambia or Australia.

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