Music tutors have been hailed as heroes for coming to the rescue using online lessons during the pandemic.

The not-for-profit Wrexham and Denbighshire Music Co-operatives moved instrumental and vocal lessons online at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 and have maintained an extensive programme of online lessons ever since, building up to hundreds of lessons a week.

Online tuition will now continue to be offered even as Wales looks forward to the return of socially distanced in-school lessons.

Music Co-operative founder and head of service Heather Powell thanked all the tutors for stepping up to the challenges of maintaining music education over such a difficult period.

She said: “Online learning has been a huge success for us in 2021 with many new pupils engaging in digital lessons.

“At our peak we are delivering almost 800 lessons a week.

“We have delivered lessons across the region and worked hard at further developing our online resource – The tutors have been real heroes.

“They are naturally keen to get back to live lessons where possible, with the use of perspex screens and sticking to social distancing health and safety rules. We encourage as many schools as possible to take up the chance of restoring in-class music lessons through our service over coming months.

“But it’s important to note how much we’ve all learned through this online experience and the value of keeping the provision permanently in our armoury in future.”

One school where the online service proved invaluable is Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch in Llanrhaeadr, near Denbigh.

Headmistress Gwennol Ellis said: “In usual circumstances, 36 per cent of our pupils have music lessons through Denbighshire Music Co-operative. Out of those, 65 per cent have continued with lessons during lockdown.

“Parents told us how it helps to enhance their childrens’ creativity, concentration and wellbeing.

“Many of our music learners have a good rapport with their tutors which they would miss if the online facility wasn’t available.”

Among them are brothers Lucca and Nico Tardivel.

Lucca, aged 11, has singing lessons with professional opera singer Sioned Terry, and Nico, nine, is learning guitar with tutor Alex Cartwright.

Denbighshire Free Press: North Wales Music Co-operative on-line music lessons; Pictured with their Mum Alison are  Nico Tardivel ,9 who is having guitar lessons. 
and Lucca Tardivel ,11 who is having singing lessons from opera singer Sioned Terry. Picture Mandy Jones

Their mum Alison Tardivel, of Ruthin, said: “During the first lockdown we chose not to sign up for online music tutoring for the boys. But we definitely noticed how much they missed music. So when the second lockdown kicked in we opted to take up online lessons through the co-operative and never regretted it.”

Alison said: “His (Lucca's) tutor Sioned has been brilliant. It’s lovely to hear him singing and both boys practising in the week. It took away some of the isolation of home schooling.”

Lucca’s teacher, Abergele-based Mezzo-soprano Sioned Terry, said Lucca was full of enthusiasm.

Sioned has performed with artists including Catrin Finch, Wynne Evans, The Tenors of Rock and leading male voice choirs.

She said: “Opportunities to perform live dried up completely over the last year and face to face teaching was impossible with the required social distancing. But the co-operative has been a Godsend, allowing me to continue tutoring and singing.

“It and other online facilities have helped keep music alive. Heather has driven this facility forward and I thank her enormously for affording me this opportunity.”

Denbighshire Music Co-operative’s Artistic Lead, Wyn Pearson, who created online videos to promote the tutoring service said: “Pre-Coronavirus we had already thought about offering online options for students but the pandemic pushed this idea forward immeasurably. We knew teachers and performers could not do their jobs and pupils could not access lessons unless we adapted our service fast.

“We worked all out to provide the best possible online lessons and I think we can be proud of what we have achieved. It is hugely satisfying to know so many people have given us such heartfelt positive feedback.”

The co-operative use Microsoft TEAMS for its online delivery and lots of pupils have continued to sit online exams and take part in music competitions during lockdown.

Heather said: “My own children have continued piano, drum and saxophone lessons online. As a full-time working mum, I know firsthand that this has been hugely beneficial to their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.

“Many of our free school meal learners have also engaged with online lessons, and we have also been busy working virtually with young carers and children with additional needs.”