Classical Music Students Adjust to New Study Habits, Routines

An ongoing “Chicago Tonight” series on professional musicians takes a look at how they’ve responded to a changing landscape. Now, we meet a few aspiring young musicians, who tell us the downside – and the upside – of studying music during the pandemic.


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Esme Arias-Kim, music student: I’m Esme, and I study at the Music Institute of Chicago.

Claire Arias-Kim, music student: My name is Claire, and I study at the Juilliard School right now.

Marc Vitali: The eighth grader and the college freshman are sisters, living at home again since Juilliard went to remote learning for the rest of the semester.

Esme Arias-Kim: I think it definitely allows us to have more time together since usually you’re away at school and I don’t see you as often. So it’s been really nice to just have family time.

Video: Claire and Esme Arias-Kim perform the Prelude from Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Claire Arias-Kim: Of course it’s very nice to have more time to practice but that also comes with knowing how to structure yourself without the daily schedule of school or just being kind of stimulated by all the energy around you as I’m used to at Juilliard and in New York.

Vitali: Her sister keeps up her studies at the Music Institute from home.

Esme Arias-Kim: Everything is now online obviously. My chamber coachings and my private lessons are done via either Skype or FaceTime, and it’s been really helpful to still be surrounded by music in some form. 

Claire Arias-Kim: It’s nice to have Esme because she plays obviously like I do. We’re doing the same thing and it’s nice to have a practice buddy, someone to keep you motivated all the time and someone to spend that free time with after we’re done with our work.

Vitali: In a suburban backyard, another student of the Music Institute of Chicago practices his instrument.

Evan Mueller, music student: I’ve been playing violin there since I was about three and now I just turned 10. I love all my teachers there and I miss like all my teachers and friends who also play the violin with me. 

I don’t get to see my friends a lot, but I do get to see them basically in my own living room, like all my teachers. So I think it kind of like pays off a little bit.

Music makes me calm down and be happy, and then like my teachers also make me really happy because they’re really nice.

Esme Arias-Kim: I also think just like being surrounded by music can be very comforting in this time.

Claire Arias-Kim: I feel very lucky to have my art with me at all times. Even when we’re kind of stuck at home we’re always lucky to have music. That’s always going to be something that connects us whether we’re together or apart. 

More on this story

The Music Institute teaches all kinds of instruments, not just the violin.

And if Claire, the oldest student we spoke to, seemed familiar to you then you must be a fan of “Introductions” on WFMT. She was featured last year on that Saturday morning radio show on our sister station.

Follow Marc Vitali on Twitter: @MarcVitaliArts

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