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Rigby couple providing free music lessons for kids during COVID-19 pandemic

Tanner and Maggie Christensen. | Courtesy photo
RIGBY – With schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many kids are stuck at home feeling bored — and testing their parents’ patience.
But fear not, stressed-out parents! Rigby residents Tanner and Maggie Christensen have begun to offer free online classes tutoring children in music and theater.
“I grew up in a small town in Washington, and they have no arts,” Tanner told “They have no theater program. They have a small music program. So whenever (my wife) and I go up to Washington, we do voice lessons or camps and stuff.”
The Christensens saw a need for some kind of group lessons since many parents can’t afford private training for their children. That need became magnified when the COVID-19 outbreak began to strand kids at home needing something to do.
“We decided during this quarantine time that we would do some lessons online,” Tanner said. “So we posted a link to (video conferencing app) Zoom and said that we’d be focused on Disney and that it would be an hour each week for the duration of the quarantine.”
Tanner said that interest in the lessons rapidly outgrew the capacity they had for teaching lessons on Zoom.
“We thought maybe we’d get 20 kids signed up from my hometown,” said Tanner. “Within 24 hours, it got almost 700 shares on social media and that next morning when we did our Zoom class – Zoom has a max capacity of 100 students – we maxed out in about 30 seconds.”
The Christensens now use Facebook Live in addition to Zoom to accommodate everyone.
They give basic beginner lessons on a number of performance skills.
“It’s not just focused on voice,” Tanner said. “It’s focused on performance, so singing, acting, emoting and different things like that. Then throughout the week, kids submit videos back to us of what they learned or singing a song, and we send them a personal message about how to improve or what they did well.”
Tanner, an actor and production manager with the Playmill theater in West Yellowstone, Montana, said these classes do more than help kids develop their singing and acting chops.
“A lot of the stuff I teach is more confidence and performance, just giving them basic attributes and giving them a passion for music” he said.
Tanner said music helps kids deal with frightening, confusing emotions that can well up during times like this.
“Music is something that always helps get emotion out,” he said. “In a time where everyone’s stuck inside, (not) being able to express emotion — maybe they don’t have their friends to express to, maybe their family’s busy — I think music gives them that outlet to express those emotions they have built up: good, happy, sad, whatever it is.”
The lessons can also help parents by giving their kids a way to burn off energy.
“It’s a time when kids can tune in, don’t have to listen to their parents. (They can) sing and dance and meet other kids from all over,” said. Tanner. “We have kids from Missouri and Texas to out of the country tuning in to our lessons. It’s an opportunity for kids to express themselves, get some wiggles out and have fun.”
Tanner and Maggie Christensen’s free online music lessons are aimed for kids ages 8 to 15. They happen every Wednesday at 11 a.m. Mountain Time through the duration of the quarantine period. Click here for info on how to get access.

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