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Louisville orchestra director keeps the music alive through virtual lessons

James Racine teaches students at KCD and through his nonprofit. He is holding his string instrument lessons from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Even though the coronavirus pandemic is keeping students at home, a local orchestra director is making sure that they are still able to make music. With his string instruments and his computer, James Racine is continuing his lessons with his students virtually.

Racine, a celebrated violinist, is the orchestra director at Kentucky Country Day in Louisville. He is also the founder and executive director of Blazin’ Strings Academy, a nonprofit afterschool program that teaches underserved youth how to play string instruments. The academy also provides academy and emotional support for its students.

While the spread of COVID-19 has shut down schools across the country, it’s been business as usual for Racine’s students.

“My classroom is now on my screen at home,” Racine said.

Racine’s day starts at 8 a.m. with first period, just like a normal school day. However, instead of a classroom filled with chairs and music stands, Racine instructs his students through Google Meet. Students log on from home and play for about 45 to 65 minutes while he listens and offers corrections. Each student gets one-on-one time before the next class logs on. 

Racine also checks in with his students on how they’re handling everything. He understands that this is a stressful time and he wants to make sure that all of his students feel supported, even when they can’t be physically together.

Racine is just one of the thousands of teachers and school leaders who are trying to create harmony during these unusual times. It’s not an ideal situation, but the ensemble is handling it to the best of their ability.

“This situation, it’s unfortunate that we can’t be on campus, but try to make a positive out of a negative,” Racine said.

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