As the nation continues to pivot to make room for pandemic safety precautions, the White Hall Arts Academy (WHAA) does its best to keep student learning and evolving through music. Relaunching its acclaimed Music4LA program, now called HeARTBeats Virtual Arts Program, the WHAA is opening its doors virtually to students across the nation.
The 8-week online course provides performing arts education to youth ages 4-12 with affordable classes covering piano, guitar, singing, dance, and drum lessons until April 24, 2021. “The main vision for the business is to provide conservatory level art instruction at an affordable price, or if not free, to reach underserved community,” founder of WHAA Tanisha Hall shared. “We started in the underserved community of South Los Angeles and have expanded and done programming in Compton and Inglewood. Now, thanks to everything shifting to virtual, we’re working to be able to reach underserved communities like East St. Louis, [Chicago], Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh and, more.”
Hall founded the academy after years of teaching from her home once demand became overwhelming. For years, she’s taught students, including Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Ant Clemons. She also opened the doors for other teachers, creating a space for Black educators to find comfort in teaching underserved children.
Since the pandemic, Hall and her teachers have pivoted to virtual classes via Zoom, which opened a door to a new opportunity. She tells of previous students who may have moved out of LA quickly latched onto the new online system and enrolled in courses. “We had so many people that were reaching, so we started getting kids enrolled all over the U.S. It was kind of like this lightbulb moment,” said Hall. Noticing a need, she even grew her team to include a community engagement coordinator to intentionally reach cities across the nation.
“It’s nothing without hard work and jus seeing the need and how we can be the most useful and what’s the best use of resources.” With that said, Hall has even gone so far as to loan or gift instruments to students in need through WHAA. “We’re still trying to figure out what is the future of our programs. Are we going to be in person, are we going to do a hybrid, are we going to stay virtual?” she explained. She continued, “But we’ve been donating, renting and giving away the instruments so that they can be in the kids hands rather than just sitting around in the closet because what good are they in the close if their kids can’t use them.”
Hall’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic further proves her resilience and passion for music and education. After being defunded by the city of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, she made a point to continue the program on her terms. Though that came with a bit of a struggle, she pushed through to rebirth the program into what it is today. With programs for all ages, WHAA’s commitment to arts education is what keeps the space afloat.
“It’s not even just about kids. I think what we do for kids get highlighted of course, but again we teach all ages. We have our specifically kids program but my schedule is probably more adults than children,” she tells. “I have people that are retired. I have people that are 80-years-old taking piano lessons because their whole lives they wanted to take lessons. I loved it because it helps keep your mind fresh.”
Knowing her work touches people of all ages, she continues to share why music for children is so important as it lays a foundation to create a strategic adult. “It’s almost as critical at the end stage in life as it is in the beginning stage. That’s why it’s important for children to learn music because it helps them learn problem solving skills and their brain spatial development. [Music] helps them learn how to multitask, learn discipline, how pay attention to detail, and all these little things.”
Hall’s passion runs deep. Her classes are full of potential and she shows no favoritism based on skill, just commitment. “I just love that like me pursuing my dream is helping them pursue their dreams.”
To sign up for classes as an adult, donate or sign your children up for HeARTBeats Virtual Arts Program visit https://www.whitehallacademy.org/ for more information.