by Jo Barnes | Photo by Amanda Cribdon Photography –
When Covid arrived, many businesses were singing the blues. However, one local music school has been playing a different tune.
Brentwood School of Music has been teaching music to generations of learners for over 40 years, but its ability to adapt in the face of a pandemic has enabled it to continue that success.
“When Covid arrived, we had to make some shifts, but we’re doing quite well. We’ve seen an increase in the student base. People are sticking with it and putting the time in,” shares Sarah Kerrigan.
Situated off West Saanich Road, Brentwood School of Music, owned by Mike Preston and Sarah Kerrigan, is a place where a shared love of music and the desire to instill this passion in others is foundational. The school has been an integral part of Brentwood Bay for many years.
“Carrie Dujela was the founder of this school for 40 years,” says Sarah. “This school has always been a staple of the community.”
In 2016, Mike and Sarah took over ownership. Mike had been teaching at the school since 2005.
“Carrie got a lot of offers from big music companies, but wanted to pass the school to a teacher,” states Sarah. “We were a good fit, committed to the school, and had a young family.”
The couple have worked hard to continue the quality instruction and the close community feel for which the school is widely known. Programs have included private and group lessons in a variety of instruments and styles including guitar, bass, mandolin, piano, violin, ukulele and voice. The ability to continue these programs in the midst of a pandemic has meant implementing all kinds of changes.
“At the beginning we had to switch to online lessons through Zoom,” says Sarah.
Mike adds: “We had to learn to be cinematographers and build new lessons. It’s a challenge to keep the attention of students.”
As well as mandatory wearing of masks, regular cleaning of instruments, sanitizing surfaces and increased ventilation, the physical space has been addressed as well.
“We had to rearrange the studios, move pianos and set up things with distancing more than six feet apart,” says Sarah. “We have floor-to-ceiling plexiglass in the room for voice students to sing.”
Additionally, while class group size is limited due to Covid, the school has been offering small group piano instruction as well as a beginner guitar class for adults.
All these efforts and creative adaptations have paid dividends. Not only have students continued with their lessons, but newcomers have been welcomed into the fold.
“We are overwhelmed with the support and appreciation from families,” shares Sarah.
Yes, right now Brentwood School of Music is showing its versatility. It all comes from a shared desire to instill a love of music in others. Teachers are not only qualified and talented musicians in their own right, but they are passionate about helping others have a positive relationship with music.
“Many of our teachers have been here for many years and love what they do,” says Sarah.
Sarah leads the Early Childhood Music program for kids ages one-and-a-half to five years. It blends child development methodology from Kodaly and Orff and helps lay the groundwork for children to play instruments and sing.
Mike holds a B.A. (Honours) in Music specializing in jazz guitar performance. As a child, he began playing guitar and then learned other stringed instruments, drums and keyboard.
“My sister took music lessons so I did too,” shares Mike. “I played guitar since age nine and during my teens was always playing music with my friends. Growing up there was no discrimination in music. There was classical, jazz, pop, rock, all of it. It instilled in me a love of all music.”
Mike teaches guitar, drums and jazz piano and a variety of music styles at the school. He also enthusiastically leads “Rock Band” for kids, a week-long program in which young musicians have the chance to improvise, write music, promote and perform their own show. Mike’s “Meet the Instruments” course is an opportunity for children age seven to 12 to learn about a variety of instruments such as piano/keyboard, guitar, drums, bass, ukulele and voice. Both will be offered this summer, as well as a “Drums and Percussion Camp.”
“Music is meant to be played together,” shares Mike. “Playing; it’s a flexible word. It refers to playing an instrument, but it’s also means fun. Music is healing.”
These days, with all the uncertainties and stress that the pandemic brings with it, one avenue to find joy, satisfaction, and connection is music. The team at Brentwood School of Music know this and are keen to help others learn, play, and put a new melody in their lives.