A Newton couple who runs a small theater company created virtual music lessons during the pandemic and has made them available to children around the world.
Operating out of a small, green studio room in their home, Alexander Prokhorov-Tolstoy, founder and artistic director of the Commonwealth Lyric Theater, and Irina Prokhorov, producer and production director of the theater, created “Musical Window,” an interactive, live musical Zoom show for kids.
“We feel that investing in children is very important,” Prokhorov said. “It came to us as an idea to give kids that minimum of general music education to get them interested and wanting to find out more about it.”
Every Saturday, the couple and their children livestream two “Musical Window” sessions over Zoom. They hold one class in English and another in Russian.
“Musical Window,” alternatively named “The Adventures of the Golden Clef,” which is presented by the Commonwealth Lyric Theater, follows the story of Buratino, a character Prokhorov-Tolstoy’s great-grandfather created based on Pinocchio.
Prokhorov said students also watch recorded episodes of “Musical Window” from around the country and the world, including Russia, Portugal, and China.
“Now with the situation where people get adjusted to the idea that there are no borders in this world, it’s so amazing that kids that participate in ‘Musical Window’ are from everywhere,” Prokhorov said.
The lessons, which range from 35 to 40 minutes, include interactive video and teaching segments of live vocal practice, music theory, history lessons and guest musician appearances. Each class, Prokhorov said, is structured to build foundation in “every portion of musical education.”
“They have this content where they connect music to history, and it creates this whole kind of ethos around it, which I think created this awesome content for kids,” Boris Shepov, a parent of a “Musical Window” student, said. “It creates this love for music.”
To devise effective and interactive classes, Prokhorov said they enlisted help from other musicians, along with a child psychologist, a children’s writer, a journalist from a Russian culture TV channel and others.
Ismael Sandoval, a conductor and guest musician on “Musical Window,” said he appreciated the simplicity of the presentation style “when in reality, these are really important concepts that they’re teaching these kids at such a young age.”
Another guest musician, Dina Kuznetsova, who is an opera singer, said the interactive element of the lessons are “very, very special.”
“It is very cute when you see somebody who’s like, 7, asking something about your life as an opera singer,” Kuznetsova said. “It’s unusual and it’s wonderful — I think it’s good to reach out, it’s good to have those connections.”
Prokhorov said “Musical Window” is rooted in a family project. Four of their children help with the production: Alexander Prokhorov Jr., 25, is the technical director; Afanasy Prokhorov, 23, works on sound engineering; Clark Rubinshtein, 18, translates the classes from Russian to English; and Brandon Rubinshtein, 15, helps with the translations and manages the clerical work.
“For five years, I didn’t see my older kids because they went to college,” Prokhorov-Tolstoy said. “Now we’re all together, and it’s a team.”
By educating young students, the couple hopes to expand appreciation for classical music to younger audiences.
“We want young people to enjoy and love it as much as we do,” Prokhorov said. “I want children to know why there’s classical music and why it’s important.”
Muny Velickovic, parent of 8-year-old “Musical Window” student Misha Velickovic, credited the Prokhorov family for encouraging and teaching her son a song which he sang while skating during the Boston Open, an annual figure skating competition. He went on to receive a silver medal for the competition.
“'Musical Window' all of a sudden benefited Misha in such an unexpected way,” she said.
Currently, “Musical Window” runs on a subscription service, in which people can purchase a single class or 12 sessions. As the live program gains steam, Prokhorov said, they hope to be able to sponsor some students for free.
With six of their seven children already living with them, the couple said, the project is like their eighth “newborn baby.” Prokhorov said when their own children go to sleep at night, “We sit down and we spend a few hours on ‘Musical Window.’”
“It’s new love,” Prokhorov-Tolstoy said. “It’s a new adventure.”
“Musical Window” is currently preparing for a Halloween special, which will be themed after “The Addams Family.” Students will be able to dress up in costumes and learn about classical composers' horror-themed music.
“Our dream is to have more children from everywhere join this window,” Prokhorov said. “If more kids from more places will join us, it’s going to be fun for everybody.”
Jessica Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.