Tim Welch has sat alone in his studio for the past four months as the coronavirus makes its mark on the Garden State.
Forced to keep the doors to his studio closed, his passion for teaching singing runs deep — 17 years deep, and he made it a goal in March to keep his doors open virtually.
The studio may be empty, but Welch and his team of eight instructors can hear the voices of their students loud and clear.
“In the beginning, it was hard,” Welch said. “Everyone was kind of mourning the reality of what had happened. We got used to things though.”
The team played around with technology for a few weeks and in due time, they made work from home feel like home.
“There are probably just as many of our students on the online sessions as there are when we do things in person,” said Brian Wiseman, one of Tim Welch Vocal Studio’s instructors. “For our lessons, with what Facebook, FaceTime and Zoom can do with audio, they are still pretty good over the computer. The virus hasn’t stopped us from being able to help someone and evaluate their voice. It’s truly a chance for people to sing with others and let their hair down. ”
In person, the studio regularly holds recitals for youth groups and singing parties for adults, who make up more than half of the students. The team saw the gatherings evolve into magical events where people made personal breakthroughs, but little has changed online.
The parties thrown have 20-plus performers and program’s luster hasn’t dimmed.
“Singing can be a transformative experience for people,” Wiseman said. “It’s an activity they can use to escape everything that’s happening in the world. It’s meditative and therapeutic in a way. A lot of our students don’t come from professional backgrounds and I would never call our studio an essential service, but to some of our students, singing is essential. They need this right now.”
Sarah Hodd is one of the program’s most enthusiastic students. She works for NBC but vocally, she has gone from a shower singer to performing her own original music.
Welch’s goal is to push his students and have some eventually conduct Facebook Live concerts for their friends. Hodd enjoys that challenge.
“It has truly influenced my life for the better,” she said. “It has increased the amount of joy in my life, my ability to be creative, expressive and open-hearted as well as my willingness to make mistakes and experience growth. With everything happening in the world, having this outlet has felt essential to maintaining my sanity. The online experience is surprisingly similar to the in-person experience. It has been so positive.”
While socially distancing has kept Welch and his team apart, their community has actually expanded. Students are pouring in day by day, so they hope to offer new classes and hire more instructors soon.
The classes include the basics of vocals, singing/songwriting sections and harmonizing courses. The studio has also become more diverse in that singers of different genres are joining the community along with people from outside of the Tri-State area.
“Working from home has given us resources and we have been able to reach out,” Welch said. “I haven’t lost students during the virus, I’ve gained them. We picked up clients from all over the country and I was able to bring in two students who I’ve taught for 13 years dating back to my days in Denver. We were planning to reconnect for quite some time and the move online made it happen. More and more instructors and students want to join us.”
Welch sees his business reaching bigger heights and the passion among his coworkers and students increasing.
The plan is for the Tim Welch Vocal Studio to be around for a while, with or without COVID-19.
“I feel that we could have a hybrid integration of online and in-person sessions in the future because both work so well‚” he said. “I sense no signs of students being wary about online singing. It’s a lifeline for a lot of them, so they are clinging onto it. We want to provide something for people to look forward to every week. Projects to make ourselves happy are getting a lot of us through this time.”
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