Rice University: At home with Shepherd School musicians: Instrument demos available online

The Shepherd School of Music’s annual Family Concert has been reimagined amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a series of interactive videos to teach children and their families about the joy of music.

Before the pandemic, the family-friendly event allowed attendees to meet students and see and hear their instruments up close, discover the variations in sound and personality of instrument families and learn about the science of acoustics. This year, in place of the concert, 15 Shepherd School students have prepared short video demonstrations of their woodwind, string, brass or percussion instruments.

Rachel Buchman, head of the Young Children’s Division of the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program, came up with the idea so families wouldn’t miss out.

“As the COVID situation wore on, it became clear that we weren’t going to have our annual Shepherd Society Family Concert for the Greater Houston community in early 2021,” Buchman said. “I realized it would be a wonderful opportunity for our students to create individual instrument demos, each using his or her own approach.”

Buchman said she wanted the demos to be up close and personal, and to have a friendly, homemade feel.

“The 15 students who participated outdid themselves,” she said. “Many had never done anything like this before, so it was a great learning experience for them. It was a joy to coach the students because of their openness to the new approaches I asked them to experiment with. In addition, now that the videos are complete, we will have them to share with teachers and children from all over Houston and beyond for years to come.”

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