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Forte's partnership with Laurel Springs provides students with access to world-class musicians

Coco Chapman

Ashley Pitman, Strategic Marketing and Content

September 16, 2021

Coral “Coco” Chapman’s earliest memory is playing the piano in a music and movement class at 16 months old, choosing high or low-pitch sounds to represent animals. And, it wasn’t long after—at five years old—she began composing and notating full pieces. The first came on a ferry ride when young Coco grabbed a notepad to jot down a melody swirling in her mind.

Coco was reading books and magazines for two years before she penned her first musical composition. Currently, in ninth grade, Coco says her thoughts are often “in music” rather than words. For her composing is, in many ways, like writing a story.

As kindergarten drew near, Coco’s mom, Lara, knew a traditional education might not be the right fit for her daughter. She started her search for an education provider to nurture Coco through an individualized, substantive academic curriculum while still providing flexibility and opportunity to pursue music and other talents. In Laurel Springs, she found the perfect fit.

“Laurel Springs has provided a personalized curriculum from day one,” Lara explains. “Coco doesn’t fit it. Rather, the school and her education fit her.”

In the same way Coco’s Laurel Springs math curriculum is molded to meet her needs—she completed Upper School level math courses in elementary and middle school, including high-level calculus—a new partnership between Laurel Springs and Forte Lessons provides Coco and other student musicians access to instruction and mentoring with world-class musicians through a state-of-the-art online platform.

“Forte is just one example of how Laurel Springs propels Coco forward to help her meet her potential,” says Lara.

Coco knows the impact an interested educator can have. After all, a music teacher helped Coco notate that first melody penned on the ferry. And later, the very same teacher encouraged her to enter the Music Teachers’ Association of California’s contest, which allows young people to enter pieces for evaluation with a much-coveted opportunity to perform at the organization’s annual convention on the line. Coco qualified for the convention as the event’s youngest performer. As such, she was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to connect with a musical mentor through the Laurel Springs and Forte partnership.

Coco continues to develop into a gifted pianist and composer. She performed numerous original compositions at the Music Teachers’ Association of California convention, and even performed at the Unity Through Music 2021 Convention this year, with her composition “Rainbow Suite” placing second.

Through the Forte and Laurel Springs partnership, Coco connected with award-winning musician Pallavi Mahidhara. She continues studying outside of the partnership, honing her musical talent with her newfound mentor.

What is Forte?

As in-person schools closed their doors during the pandemic last year, teachers scrambled to move their classroom experience online.

Forte Founder Mark Murtagh recognized music teachers were even more limited than regular classroom teachers. Murtagh and his team found existing communication platforms were not optimized for audio and visual communications. So how could music teachers continue to provide lessons for their students?

Murtagh got to work designing a communication platform specifically for two-way audio and visual feedback. This platform, appropriately named Forte, makes online music lessons feel more like in-person lessons by connecting teachers and students through video.

Forte then partnered with some of the world’s leading music schools, like the Curtis Institute of Music. The Curtis Institute is one of the most selective music schools in the world. Even those who have never heard of Curtis are likely familiar with its graduates—including notable alumni Leonard Bernstein, who wrote West Side Story, or Nino Rota, who wrote the music for The Godfather. Today, Curtis alumni perform in every major orchestra globally, making up nearly half of the Philadelphia Orchestra and a significant portion of the New York Philharmonic.

These individuals are not only teachers—they are gifted performing artists paired with students seeking one-on-one instruction and mentorship through the Laurel Springs partnership.

The Visual Art of Music

Through Forte and Laurel Springs, Pallavi Mahidhara became Coco’s mentor, and from day one, they were a perfect fit.

Mahidhara, a graduate of Curtis Institute, made her piano orchestral debut at the age of 10. She has won multiple competitions and performed in solo and orchestral concerts across five continents. Additionally, she collaborates with artists across all genres.

Forte made the partnership between Coco and Mahidhara dynamic. Coco witnessed how Mahidhara used her body to represent the music—floating about the room, seemingly acting out the music. To Coco, Mahidhara seemed like an athletic coach, treating piano-playing like a sport.

The most significant benefit of Forte, Coco says, was experiencing different teaching styles and receiving personalized one-on-one instruction from a world-class performing artist.

“To get to work with someone open and willing to share her knowledge,” Coco says, “that is like receiving a gift.”

Laurel Springs and Forte, a Perfect Match

For more than 30 years, Laurel Springs has been a leader in online education through its mission of integrating [students'] passions and pursuits into academic and career pathways. So, it was a natural fit for Laurel Springs School to partner with Forte.

The two share similar missions. Both Laurel Springs and Forte focus on more than educating children; both are committed to releasing a student’s untapped potential to open their future. And because Laurel Springs understands how to make online education work well, Forte is a perfect extension of that vision.

Murtagh says Forte revolves around the idea that talent is randomly distributed, but opportunity is not. This is especially true when it comes to musical talent. Passionate musicians come from everywhere, and access to equal instruction shouldn’t hinder their ability to live this passion. Since great teachers and musicians tend to live in cultural capitals worldwide, geographic imbalance and placement tend to have a lot to do with who receives instruction from the great music teachers.

Technology has advanced enough to bridge that gap thanks to platforms like Forte’s and a talented body of budding musicians at schools like Laurel Springs.