Long-running conservatory program makes music with area musicians
August 15, 2013–Even though the Music Conservatory Program at Georgia Regents University is 30 years old, many in the community still don’t realize it exists, which is why Sarah Tau, a pianist by training, has become something of a pied piper during her year as the program’s director.
“When I came on, I realized there wasn’t really anything going on social media-wise for the conservatory program,” she says.
Now there’s a Facebook page along with the website and the monthly e-newsletter to inform everyone about the classes offered by the program, which is part of GRU’s continuing education department.
As part of an educational institution, Tau says the program has lagged behind others in the area when it comes to marketing its services.
“The others have the finances to do more marketing,” she says. “I think that’s why people don’t know as much about the program.”
The program offers students of all ages private lessons on all kinds of instruments. It also offers summer camps for school-aged kids as well as ensembles and music classes that follow a fall/spring schedule.
“A lot of the ensemble kids came to the summer camp,” Tau says. “For some it didn’t work because of vacations or because they wanted go somewhere different, but of the 65 kids we had in the wind symphony, 20 went to band camp.”
Because it’s all part of the continuing education program, the university pays nothing toward the programming, which means everything must be supported by the fees. Even so, Tau says they all work hard to keep the costs down.
“A lot of them are scared off when they hear that the tuition for a semester is $85,” Tau says. “I would love to see them participate, because a lot of students that come through the conservatory program end up majoring in music. I majored in music, so for me to see other students that are interested in music makes me want to see it grow.”
At least three of the students in GRU’s music department participated in the program and one is studying jazz at Kennesaw State.
Some of the instructors, like Greater Augusta Youth Orchestra Director Ryan Kho, are full-time teachers, though unlike Kho, most of those teachers teach music. Kho, who was formerly the principal violinist for the Augusta Symphony, teaches math, which makes it difficult for him to recruit, although in many cases local band directors do the recruiting for him.
“Directors in the schools love the program,” Tau says. “They usually welcome me to come and talk to kids or just hang out. I’ll send out an email and they’ll post it in the band room and that sort of thing.”
Though GRU doesn’t fund the program, it does offer practice and performance space, which is a big thing for the students. Concerts take place in the Maxwell Theatre, while private lessons meet either in classrooms or in private practice rooms. Ensembles meet in one of two big rehearsal halls.
Private instructors charge two different rates depending on the instructor’s level of education, but all have at least a bachelors degree in their instrument, and while those rates are likely to stay the same, Tau is working to supplement a couple of existing sponsors from the Brandon Wilde retirement community who support the summer camp by creating a grant program to make the camps and ensembles more affordable.
“For a lot of these kids, music is an outlet,” she says. “Some of them have great family lives and some of them don’t, and I think it’s a way for them to express themselves.”