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BWW Feature: Online Learning Opportunities Abound As More Programs Are Developed During Pandemic

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BWW Feature: Online Learning Opportunities Abound As More Programs Are Developed During Pandemic

Online learning has taken over the world. It's the only way to have any growth during this strange period of isolation. Learning institutions are not allowed to gather - and when there are limitations placed on us, we must think outside of the box.

Thanks to various online meeting platforms like ZOOM, many artists interested in the continuation of their learning path are able to continue their studies. I recently had an opportunity to sit in on a ZOOM class taught by cabaret doyenne Lina Koutrakos. Ms. Koutrakos started in the business as a singer-songwriter but as time passed the level of respect for the lady grew to a place where artists were hiring her to direct their shows and to teach them the finer untapped tools of their trade. For years Lina has been helping cabaret artists to do the deep dive into their material and their work and the performers and audiences are all the greater for her work. Koutrakos' group usually meets at Don't Tell Mama on Saturday mornings at 11 but these days their meetings look rather like the opening credits of The Brady Bunch. With David Sabella acting as ZOOM room moderator, working on tech issues, muting members whose mics are live, helping out like a virtual Professor Marvel behind the curtain, Koutrakos spends three hours having group conversation and instruction, as one by one the students sing for each other, some using tracks that play through their computer, others using tracks that play in their personal space. It's a system with some kinks, and those kinks are being ironed out - with each new session things run more smoothly as Lina, David, and all of the students learn their way in this new learning medium.

A mere observer who wasn't visible (camera disabled for incognito status) I was able to watch, fascinated by being able to see, up close, all of the participants. Each member of the course could be seen paying rapt attention as their colleagues performed. Their appreciation of certain moments was so clear, so exposed as to validate the work of the actor who was presenting in real-time. It's a luxury one doesn't get in a classroom atmosphere and one upon which Ms. Koutrakos commented, saying she loved watching everyone watch each other. Koutrakos, a hell of a fine teacher, is proving that this new format of instruction, while not ideal to live performing arts, is workable, as long as people have minds open enough to go with the flow and grow with the times. (Lina Koutrakos WEBSITE)

Koutrakos, it turns out, is teaching workshops at the end of June called VIRTUAL VOICES to accommodate Chicago and St Louis-based students set to participate in classes at The Midwest Cabaret Conference, canceled due to Coronavirus in its tenth year - information on Virtual Voices can be seen HERE.

The Saturday morning cabaret class is not the only one this writer has recently had a chance to observe.

Michael Kirk Lane recently began a series of interviews for the 92nd Street Y School of Music. This brand-new program, Cabaret Conversations, broadcasts in real-time every month until (at least) the end of the year 2020. In the series, Lane will interview a leader in the art form of cabaret about their work, the history of the art, and the future of the industry. The first interview was with cabaret Wonder Woman and Mabel Mercer Foundation President KT Sullivan and the July 13th guest will be Joe Iconis. As a silent observer of the nicely attended ZOOM meeting between Lane and Sullivan, I found the program to be informative and entertaining, with Sullivan as effervescent and enthusiastic as ever, even taking time out to play her piano and sing... naturally while decked out in a flawless hat. The upcoming interviews should be enjoyable ones if Lane's abilities as an interviewer stay true to what he displayed last week. The program is conducted via ZOOM and reservations can be made at this link:

Mr. Lane, an industrious man if there ever was one, will start another new series at the 92nd Street Y School of Music titled Cabaret History and Great Performances. This three-week lecture series featuring audio and video clips will explore the history of the art form and where it is headed into the future. The series runs Monday nights at 6 pm. Information can be found HERE

Marc Tumminelli created Broadway Workshops a few years ago and the organization has been growing leaps and bounds ever since, and no quarantine was going to keep their students from their opportunities to learn from some of the best actors in the business today. Tumminelli took Broadway Workshops online and one by one classes have been selling out. The learning institution designed to give young actors with a professional level passion for the performing arts an opportunity to explore their creativity through masterclass, workshops, productions, and intensives, is about to kick off their summer season and their programs can be read about HERE and HERE.

Singnasium, the educational system created by 9-term MAC President Lennie Watts, is dedicated to providing a safe, non-judgmental place for artists and singers, of all levels, to fully explore their creative selves. Singnasium has moved its summer curriculum completely online to offer a diverse selection of virtual classes covering musical theater, cabaret, country, jazz, and rock, as well as musicianship, vocal training, arranging, and self-taping- a true one-stop musical shopping experience. A full list of classes, which begin June 15, and teaching artists' bios may be found HERE.

These are strange times but they can be wonderful ones, too, thanks to technology and the humanly love being felt around the globe. People are reaching out to one another in any way they can and this is a time for people to commune, and learn, from the safety and privacy of their own homes... sometimes from celebrities! Each day there are more listings on social media for learning opportunities, affordable ones. We've got the time. We've got the technology. So, let's do it.

Learn something.

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From This Author Stephen Mosher