The Brookline Music Program helps students grow as musicians

The Brookline Music Program fosters connections between young musicians and older mentors.


The Brookline Music Program fosters connections between young musicians and older mentors.

Ping! A guitar note strums as a young student picks up a guitar for the first time and smiles. The Brookline Music Program fosters a positive environment to help middle school students develop as musicians.

The Brookline Music Program is a student-run organization that pairs high school students with middle school musicians to offer them free music tutoring.

Isla Chasin, a junior and the Senior Director of the program, said that the program was created to provide students who cannot afford private lessons an alternative way to get the instruction they need.

“We pair high school musicians with middle school musicians with a goal of creating a mentor-mentee relationship, but also to give more people access to music in general,” Chasin said. “It is normally extremely difficult to afford private lessons, but it is also necessary to progress in music.”

Although in past years tutoring lessons would be offered in person, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the directors to switch to using an online format through Zoom.

Marlyn Li, a junior and tutor in the program, said the transition to online has some learning curves.

“It’s definitely weird to not be able to physically adjust,” Li said. “I think especially with playing an instrument it is really important to be in the room because the sound quality and really detailed parts about actually playing you can’t really get through a video camera or a mic that’s not exactly up to par.”

However, directors of the program have been busy creating new curriculums and setting up new guidelines to make sure online tutoring goes smoothly for both instructors and students.

Chasin said that quality was a big goal that her and her fellow directors worked on at the start of the year.

“In our application, we make sure that both the students and instructors have access to one program like Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp, any kind of video calling, and we’ve edited our curriculum to include standards for online learning or ways that online learning can help,” Chasin said.

While the pressures of college and academics are becoming more prevalent for students, especially during the pandemic, Chasin believes that music offers a unique experience away from academics.

“I think music is a special experience. While academics are important, I think that arts are often lost in their importance at school,” Chasin said. “Sometimes they are undervalued, and I think that is something we need to step away from. I think it is really important for development in general.”

Ella Kelly, a junior and Music Director, said she sees the value that these tutoring sessions offer to students.

“I think that the program helps kids build an environment of safety and a positive place for them to learn and grow into musicians,” Kelly said.

Although a big part of the tutors’ jobs are to offer musical instruction, Li said that she tries to act as a mentor to her students and build a bond beyond music.

“There isn’t anything bonding that you specifically have to set aside time to do, but it does come through pretty naturally,” Li said. “With my student, sometimes at the beginning of class he’ll talk to me about soccer because he’s really into that. So that naturally builds a bond over time.”

Li has been able to improve her own musical abilities through tutoring her student.

“It’s definitely made me look into my playing a lot more. Having to explain things that feel more natural to me at this point improves my technique, as I really have to dig into the intricacies of what I’m doing,” Li said.

Although many of the tutors have been playing their instrument for most of their lives, Chasin said that you do not need to be a prodigy in your instrument to get involved.

“In reality, there’s no real limitation in the amount of experience you need to tutor these kids,” Chasin said. “As long as you’re a highschooler and you’re involved in a music program inside our outside of the school, and you’re dedicated to your instrument, that is enough to be a tutor.”

The Brookline Music Program ultimately wants to build a community where young musicians can foster their love for music.

“We want to do our best to expand people’s interest in music so that they will be able to continue music through high school and maybe beyond,” Chasin said.