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Richmond music non-profit opens 'acoustically-improved' rooms to public

From new facilities to expanded programming, Richmond Music School is thriving post-COVID-19 lockdowns.

One of Richmond's oldest schools has just opened up four new "acoustically-improved" — almost soundproof — rooms for everyone to use.

Richmond Music School (RMS), based at the Richmond Alliance Church on No. 3 Rd, is the city's oldest and largest non-profit music school. But it never had any soundproof rooms until now.

"This is something that even before the (COVID-19) pandemic, a lot of our teachers and students have been requesting. You have chamber groups playing next door, and you can hear the choir, and (we really needed) better facility," said principal Karrie Tam.

When competitions, festivals and examinations moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for soundproof rooms grew even higher as students needed a quiet place to rehearse or record their performances.

The four rooms, each named after a clef in music, have soundproof walls, soundproof doors, and pin locks for easy access. One of the rooms is designed especially for filming exam videos with a grand piano and aesthetically pleasing decor, and the most popular one has a set of electric drums.

Construction for the four rooms had started back in July and was finally completed last week. The school had been unable to take on this project earlier due to limited funding, but to their surprise and delight, it finally came to fruition with the help of the B.C. community gaming grant

And these new rooms are not the only improvements made to the school.

Despite losing two-thirds of its students after having to close down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has bounced back and grown bigger than ever.

The number of teachers grew from around 20 teachers in 2019 to the current 35. And Tam, who became principal in 2020, has been focusing on diversifying the school's programming by strengthening the strings department as well as offering a chamber ensemble program and drum lessons in collaboration with the City of Richmond.

The school has also rebuilt its choir and strengthened its community outreach program, which offers music lessons at a low cost. Students enrolled in the program also get a free violin.

"Now the school is better than pre-pandemic," said Tam.

The next step, she said, is to build up the winds department and offer more group lessons so students can learn to perform and collaborate with others.

"And I'm hoping, eventually, to have our own orchestra," said Tam.

The four new "acoustically-improved" rooms are free for RMS members and open to Richmondites for a nominal fee. Booking inquiries can be sent to info@richmondmusicschool.ca, and information about the rooms and RMS' programming can be found on its website.

Students from RMS can be seen performing at local senior residences and concerts, and they will be performing at the city's Winter Wonderland on Dec. 10, 2022.

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