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Armonia Cuscatleca’s first response to the COVID crisis involved a lot of confusion and uncertainty. Would the project be able to continue at all? But fortunately, after a couple weeks of brainstorming, we decided to follow the trend of switching to virtual classes and workshops.

In El Salvador, most families have to rely on low quality phones and internet connections, which meant that our virtual classes only worked out about half of the time. And it wasn’t just the internet disconnecting constantly – with the regular schools being moved online as well, students spent a lot of time watching their phone screens already. After a day of online classes, students had a hard time staying motivated for even more – even if it involved music – which is why some participants stopped joining.

We knew we had to find a way to encourage creativity and artistry during this difficult time. Armonia Cuscatleca’s staff and teachers decided to host their very first virtual talent show in June 2020. We bought three electric guitars as prizes, for the three different ways to win: most artistic, most creative and a popularity prize for the submission with the most likes on Facebook.

Many of our students came to the school’s recording studio to create their video and audio with support from teachers, while others used what they had available at home. The contest gave participants an opportunity to explore their creativity and artistic ability with their family members at home. The virtual show allowed our participants to, at least for a while, forget about the stressful reality of the strict quarantine implemented by the Salvadoran government.

After a few months of quarantine, El Salvador started to open up again. With strict protocols in place, we felt safe enough to start holding in-person classes again. Everyone wears masks and cleans their hands thoroughly, and we checked everyone’s temperature before starting classes. With these safety precautions in place, many families trusted us to take care of our students. For the participants whose families chose to not take the risk, we still work with an online variant of our classes, so that they still get to work on their craft and improve their skills.

Organizing concerts has become impossible because of the pandemic, but our students and their families have shown us the meaning of resilience and patience. We look forward to the moment that we can play for the communities of El Salvador again, and show off to the world all the talent that we have here.

One of the many talent show contestants – find more on Armonia Cuscatleca’s Youtube channel!