By Alex Gallagher

Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer

The South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy has reopened after 15 months with nearly 30% of its students partaking in in-person lessons.

Though it is making strides toward resuming normalcy, the South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy still has safety measures in place for their staff and students. Masks are worn at all times by students and staff, medical grade air filters were installed and the lobby remains closed.

Manuel Lozano owns the South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy and is hopeful that he made the right decision to open much later than any other business of this nature. He delayed his decision because he noticed online lessons were a hit.

“If you had asked me in February of 2020 if we would ever do online lessons, I would have adamantly refused,” Lozano said. “Now, after doing it, we now have some of the best online instruction in the world.”

When stay-at-home orders were initiated, Lozano scrambled to move all lessons online. He did it within a weekend.

“We went from in person on a Saturday to every lesson online the following week,” Lozano said.

Lozano then had his instructors help him work out any kinks with online lessons. They provided students with world-class lessons even while locked in their own homes.

Instructors obtained specialized microphones and positioned their cameras so their students could see the music being played and learn new techniques. They experimented with video meeting software but ultimately concluded that Zoom worked best.

Now that cases are extremely low in California and some communities are reaching herd immunity, Lozano slowly reopened his doors and returned to his goals.

“We’re really big on being open to all styles of music. Any genre you can imagine we teach,” Lozano said. “The one thing that sets us apart from a more traditional conservatory is that we believe that any man, woman or child should have the ability to learn music.”

He’s done so by implementing an online booking system for students to sign up for introductory and recurring lessons.

They can also select an instructor and time preference for an appointment or adjust their appointment up to 24 hours prior.

Though group lessons have been offered in the past, all lessons are one-on-one at the moment.

“We really believe that one-on-one instruction is the most effective way to learn music,” Lozano said.

Lozano plans to be fully operational by August, but will keep the online option.

Meanwhile, Lozano will resume his regular fundraiser. Before the pandemic, he offered $10 introductory lessons for one week and donated most of those proceeds to the South Pasadena Educational Foundation.

“We’re big supporters of the South Pasadena Educational Foundation and we’ve been fundraising for them for close to five years,” Lozano said. “This allows us to be one of South Pasadena Educational Foundation’s bigger sponsors in the small business world.”

This has worked well for Lozano and the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, as he has historically booked 60 to 80 introductory lessons. The pandemic has hindered this event, however.

“This past year was very challenging and, when I spoke to the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, I got the sense that a lot of their donors weren’t donating to them,” Lozano said. “This year it was more painful to make that donation, as we lost 30% to 40% of our student base during the pandemic.”

Lozano is still happy to donate, despite any financial consequences. He’s optimistic his business will return to normal.

Lozano plans to host his $10 introductory lessons week either the first or second week of August and hopes to welcome all students as they prepare to head back to school.

The teachers, he said, will implement technology they used during the pandemic with in-person lessons.

“There are some instructors who have now had to adjust from online to in-person because they had access to so many resources online that are not present when you’re having an in-person lesson,” Lozano said. “There are some things that we’re working on incorporating into our in-person lessons and this has been a great learning experience for everyone.”

Lozano is also working on utilizing the garden of the South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy as a rehearsal space.

“The idea is to have a couple of spots where students and instructors can sit across from each other outside and play,” Lozano said. “We want to give the students and the instructors the option of being able to rehearse and practice outside.”

More than anything, Lozano can’t wait to see students learn music again.

“We’re excited to see some of the kids we lost during the pandemic come back when we fully reopen,” Lozano Said.

South Pasadena Arts & Music Academy

803 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena