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Mixing timeless art with 21st-century technology: San Antonio school takes its classical music lessons online

The Classical Music Institute teaches students from San Antonio, using musicians from around the world.

SAN ANTONIO — The coronavirus pandemic has forced much of our world to move to the digital side for work, school and even teaching music. We spoke with a local group that has gathered teachers from across the world to teach classical music to students right here in San Antonio.

"I personally like the cello. It's always been one of my favorite instruments," said Cezar Cavazos, who has been playing for four years. "Mainly in part because of, obviously, Yo-Yo Ma. I used to watch him on television."

Cavazos has spent three years learning from the Classical Music Institute in person, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced them to go virtual. 

"I think they are doing it fairly well, they have a really good system," he said. "Of course, there are limitations from Zoom."

"We've taken more of an approach on, 'Let's go back to some of the basics, let's work on some of the fundamentals," Executive Director Donald Mason said. 

Meeting over Zoom, understandably, makes it a bit difficult for everyone to play a complicated piece of Mozart or Beethoven in sync. So they're polishing up in other areas. 

"Some of the elective classes has been ear training, what does your instrument teach you about the world and kind of an introduction to conducting," Mason said. 

This year, the teachers come from seven countries—the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain, Bulgaria and Japan. 

And with international teaching, students can get more out of each lesson.

"It becomes this international feel with so many different backgrounds and perspectives that they bring," Mason said. 

"It's good to have an outside view on how we play," Cavazos added. "Because they have experience (from) across the world. They've learned a different technique than we do."