ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Just as students now turn to digital learning for math and English classes, Orange County Public Schools is stepping up to connect many of its students to professional musicians and performers at home to keep the arts going strong outside of the classroom.

What You Need To Know

  • "Arts Beyond the Screen" is a new OCPS initiative

  • Connecting students to performers, even through distance learning

  • OCPS looking to expand the program to reach more students

The ‘Arts Beyond the Screen’ program is using distance learning to connect students to ballet lessons, opera master classes, watching Shakespeare be performed in the theater, even live lessons with the Orlando Philharmonic.

It's something musicians have been looking forward to as much as the students.

“I don’t think this is something we’d be able to offer them if it wasn’t for distance learning, so because we are stuck in this situation, it’s a wonderful positive to get these musicians to link up with these students and create a life-long bond with them, so it’s wonderful,” said Amy Cullen, manager of education and community engagement for the Orlando Philharmonic.

“Some of these kids, they’ll remember this forever, for sure,” she added.

Jephthe Belizaire is a junior at Evans High School and plays clarinet. He and more than two dozen others were chosen for one-on-one lessons with musicians with the Orlando Philharmonic. He said the lessons have already helped how he plays but it also keeps him connected to the arts when he’s at home.

“Music has helped me cope with a lot of things, including stress with a lot of classes. So knowing I have a fun way to de-stress and everything, it’s made distance learning a lot easier,” Belizaire said. ​

“So many kids rely on arts to be their home when they’re at school, they rely on the arts to be that way they communicate about themselves to others, so it’s absolutely critical that we keep pushing forward to make sure they’re getting arts experiences every day of their lives,” said Scott Evans, Visual and Performing Arts Director for OCPS.

Evans said arts programs are vital for students learning at home and they believe these programs will help. OCPS is working to expand the Arts Beyond the Screen program further to reach more students.