Editor’s note: This is one in a periodic series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times. Have a story we should tell? Send it via email to newstips@seattletimes.com with the subject “Stepping Up.”

The local schools are shut down, but the music goes on for cello-playing students.

Bradley Hawkins, the cello professor at Seattle Pacific University, has made sure of that by offering free daily video lessons at 9 a.m.

“I am looking to help any student displaced from the school closures who wants to have music,” said Hawkins, who has continued his work at SPU on a remote basis.

The 30- to 45-minute video conferences are geared for students whose only lessons come at school, but Hawkins said there are no age limitations, and a couple of adults have taken part.

“I was thinking that the students who have lessons (outside of school) are probably well set up,” he said. “There are lots of students who don’t have that resource so orchestra just kind of disappears. I thought this is what I can offer to students and it has been really nice. I like giving something out to the community.”


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Hawkins has been doing the video conferences for more than a month and said between 10 and 20 people join per day, mostly middle-school and older elementary-school students. Hawkins said attendance has been down the past week, which he attributes to Seattle Public Schools’ spring break. He hopes the numbers come back, as he wants to reach as many students as possible.

“I tell the kids to tell their friends,” said Hawkins, who has referred students who play other instruments to other instructors.

Hawkins, who also has helped teach cello in the public schools, said he previously knew about half of the people who have participated. He has tailored his classes so they are suitable for all ability levels, often working on basics like bow control, which he did during Thursday’s class.

“That was for two students in particular, but it was still beneficial for everyone else,” he said.

Sometimes Hawkins will work on a topic that could be advanced for some, but he said, “What I have found out is that it helps the students who are beginning to see what the path is going to be going forward. They see something that might be a little too hard, and they think, ‘I want to get there.’ That’s the feedback I have gotten.”

Hawkins said he has also worked on improvisation.

“How would you improv a recording of popular music? How do you piece that together?” said Hawkins, who asked participants last weekend to come up with a favorite pop song to play on cello.


Hawkins was seeing steady growth in attendance in the first few weeks, and said he would love to get more people involved.

“Come on down, it’s totally free, and if you just want to watch people learn how to play the cello, that’s fine too,” he said.

Those interested in joining the classes can email Hawkins at hawkinsb@spu.edu. His website is hawkinsmusic.com.

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