Back to the Classroom: Top Latin Musicians Teach Online to Make Ends Meet

Aldana Bass
Gustavo Saiegh

Aldana Bass

Desde Casa Estudio benefits sidemen and musicians in 29 countries.

In a world of TikTok posts, Instagram Lives and shirtless photos, the black and white posts that started cropping up last week under the @desdecasaestudio_ Instagram account stood out.

They featured photos of well-known Latin musicians, like Colombian guitarist Toby Tobón and Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, schedules for different Latin countries and a registration email. They appeared to be live performances.

But it turns out the buzz around the daily posts was about something else entirely. Desde Casa Estudio, which roughly translates to "Study From Home," is a series of daily online classes by Latin musicians and music professionals that can be accessed by other music professionals and students around the world. The classes, two per day from 2-4 pm every afternoon, are free for those who register, but the teachers – who range from producers and session musicians to engineers and composers — are paid.

Every day is capped by a surprise session from a major artist who performs and or lectures gratis. Since the launch of "Desde Casa" last week, that list of surprise speakers/performers has included Carlos Vives, Fonseca and producer Javier Limón, while classes have been given by the likes of Brazilian guitarist Max Viana, Mexican session guitarist Joe Demikeli and Argentine producer and pianist Didi Gutman.

The notion is to put extraordinary people’s talents to work, pay them for that work, and at the same time, provide something valuable to other members of the music community. Although the Desde Casa sessions take place via zoom, their discrete promotion takes place on Instagram, which is fitting.

The impetus behind the project was actually started an Instagram post by Aldana, an Argentine bass player, who was offering online bass classes after losing her gig as a result of the COVID 19 crisis. Afo Verde, Sony's chairman/CEO for Latin America, Spain and Portugal, happened to see the post. Verde is also a musician -- a composer and producer -- and he was acutely aware of what a shuttered live circuit could do to a musician's pocket. How could Sony help, he asked Rafa Arcaute, his vp of A&R, who is also a respected, Grammy-winning producer.

"We started to brainstorm on how this could be a bigger project. Something that would not only provide work for those affected, but could also have a bigger scope," says Arcaute.

He got together with fellow producer Julio Reyes (Alejandro Sanz, Marc Anthony) who owns Art House in Miami, a recording studio that doubles up as a rehearsal, creative and also teaching space. Between Sony and Art House, they launched Desde Casa Estudio April 20 with support from Sony Music, which is donating the teacher's fees, and from Art House's infrastructure as a place that regularly hosts workshops.

"The most genuine impetus was motivation," says Reyes. "Motivation that touched Rafa and I as producers. We spoke a lot about the impact COVID has had on teachers, on musicians, on everyone. People call us. They're distressed. They live from playing and we see amazingly talented people in dire straits."

"The entire industry, the musicians, everyone who works behind the spotlight is a very key part of our work as producers," added Arcaute. "And also, Julio and I share a passion for training and music education."

All told, more than 100 classes will be held over eight weeks, reaching more than 10,000 registrants. It's a huge endeavor for Arcaute and Reyes, who not only book the classes, but often moderate sessions. The notion of doing classes instead of merely Instagram Lives with artists was important, says Arcaute, because they didn’t want this to be a project for fans but for the music community, the industry and music students "who dream of being part of this."

Therefore, sessions don't go live on Instagram, for example but on Zoom via a private link. To access a specific class, you have to register by sending an email to the address provided on the #desdecasaestudio_ account on Instagram for that particular day and session. The names of the "special" star guests are deliberately kept secret, so the sessions don't lose their true impetus.

Registrations can run as high as 500 people and sessions are kept to 100 to 200 people to allow for questions and interaction.

"The intent is to focus people: Generate work, mobilize the artistic community," says Arcaute. "The master classes are an added value."

For Reyes, combining education with performance and remuneration is the perfect balance. "This came up and it's been a beautiful thing. We’ve brought something tangible to the community," he says.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.