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Grand Central Music in San Luis Obispo keeps the music alive in isolation with online lessons

Posted at 11:10 AM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 14:10:43-04

The coronavirus has hit small businesses hard and the pandemic has disrupted life for musicians too.

Dan Ernst, musician and owner of Grand Central Music Conservatory in San Luis Obispo, is finding ways to get through this difficult time and online classes are striking a chord with his students.

"Doing what we do, since 1998, we've taught in store lessons... Never thought we'd have an online format," Ernst said.

Grand Central Music is considered essential business under California law as musicians need equipment for their profession.

For those learning to learn the sound of music like Joe Fram, he says he is starting to hear himself turn the corner in his guitar skills.

"These guys really rock," Fram said. "I appreciate what I listen to so much more. And when I hit the right chords, it's like 'Woo hoo!' This remote instruction has been fantastic."

Ernst said there was a significant learning curve to be able to properly teach the lessons. Latency delay has forced a change in the approach, with instructors keeping a close eye on hand movement.

"It's interesting how everyone has pushed themselves into a different teaching style," Ernst said.

Fram is actively retired. His days are still filled with plenty of obligations as he's part of the Coast Guard Auxillary, vice commander of a local flotilla, and involved with his congregation. He has, in his words, attempted to learn guitar in the past, but getting serious in the last three months.

"It's actually starting to happen," he said. "I am by no means a star student. I am a retired petroleum engineer, research scientist. As far of individual lessons, I'm a great proponent of being able to do this online. I think Dan has worked really hard to get this thing flying and it's working out great."

The webcam allows up close view of guitar neck positioning and Fram says he in some ways prefers the online lesson.

"I can see their fingers a lot better online than physically in their presence," Fram said. "The only thing I miss is jamming with the group."

Prior to COVID-19, Grand Central held group lessons, giving the ability to jam with others as they learned.

Until life returns to normal, Ernst and crew will continue to deliver the sound of music through a screen in the middle of a pandemic, giving people who have always wanted to learn a chance to pick up and play.

"As far of individual lessons, I'm a great proponent of being able to do this online," Fram said. "I think Dan has worked really hard to get this thing flying and it's working out great. [Dan's] opened up music for a lot of people."

Ernst and his wife Kathy have found quite the groove in the community as the couple and their business is beloved by the community.

"It's why we do what we do. We love spreading music," Ernst said.

Financially the pandemic has taken a toll on the business.

Just a few weeks into the shelter-at-home order, over $11,000 has been donated to the store's GoFundMe page to help keep the mom and pop shop afloat while the owners wait to hear back on small business loans.

When life resumes, Ernst says so will online classes.

"I think some people like Joe prefer it," Ernst said. "It's more convenient. And this will be a service we offer. I'm assuming a lot of people will stick with it."

The shop is operating 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday for curbside pickup. On its Facebook page, the shop is also streaming live music from musicians.

You can learn more about online lessons here. If you would like to donate, you can find the GoFundMe page here.