At Singapore’s leading music school, there’s no one way to teach and learn. In a society that generally promulgates a singular path of learning music – parents send their children to music lessons at a young age and they take music exams to acquire certificates as proof of their talent – Aureus Academy has created much-needed change.
Launched by Lawrence and Julius Holmefjord-Sarabi in September 2013, the music education center has redefined the way music is taught and learned in Singapore. Growing from a single school in Delfi Orchard to 25 centers in Singapore and Hong Kong, Aureus has been nothing short of successful.
Lawrence is a celebrated pianist and the first American to be accepted into the prestigious Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Schools on a full scholarship. He is an active participant in academy classes and his personal journey with music has shaped the way classes are taught at Aureus to be centered on individual students. Julius, on the other hand, has extensive experience in running successful start-ups and businesses, and has been instrumental in the expansion and development of the business.
Since co-founding the academy, Lawrence and Julius have broken away from the traditional approach to teaching music to develop students’ passion and regularly hire dedicated teachers to use music to enhance social development. and children’s art.
The brothers give us a glimpse into the passion behind Aureus and how they have managed to continue to grow the academy since its inception.
What made you decide to create the Aureus Academy in Singapore?
Lawrence (L): During my stay at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, I had the privilege of participating in several performances. Members of the public, some of whom were parents with children, were among the spectators who came to me and asked me to be their child’s piano teacher. At the time, I assumed that there was already an abundance of good music schools in Singapore. However, these meetings made me realize that there was a gap in the market both in terms of teaching and customer service.
Jules (J): Lawrence and I went to find out about existing music schools. After experiencing customer service for ourselves and learning about their offers and policies, which included very restrictive student policies such as not being able to reschedule classes conveniently, we saw that there was definitely a possibility for us to create a music academy that not only had more qualified teachers in all areas, but also focused on providing a much more customer-centric experience.
What interesting things have you learned about music education in Singapore?
J&L: After speaking to a number of parents who inquired about lessons at Aureus and then chose us as their music education provider, a common thread was that they did not want their children to have the same grueling experience of having to pass music exams the way they had to do in their own childhood. In fact, we believe that more and more parents today see the value of learning music as a lifelong experience with a host of benefits, rather than taking music lessons just to earn certifications. exam.
How were you able to continue growing Aureus during the pandemic?
J&L: There are several reasons why we were able to expand and launch 5 new centers during the pandemic. Throughout this time, we have remained true to our commitment to providing the highest levels of customer service and experience. When we had to move all of our lessons online, one of our biggest challenges was keeping students engaged and ensuring they could continue with their lessons. Learning music is like going to the gym – taking a long break will likely undo any progress you’ve made.
Part of the challenge of moving to online courses was the fact that many of our early first breaker customers did not have instruments at home. As a solution, we called our instrument suppliers and ended up buying back all of their canceled orders, which then allowed us to loan instruments to our customers for free. In total, we lent 1,500 instruments free of charge during the pandemic. We now continue to offer a free period of instrument rental for new students to start their learning journey with us.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face while directing Aureus?
J&L: Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge we have faced has been coping with the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic. The pandemic has pushed us to our limits – expanding to more locations, providing comprehensive training for teaching online classes to all of our teachers, and reaching out to customers to ensure a smooth transition to online classes. .
Managing this transition to online learning has challenged us to be more innovative about learning opportunities. We are really proud of how our online courses have been run. To this day, many of our current students continue to take online courses, and we even have students living abroad who regularly take online courses with Aureus.
We also realized that during times of pandemic and lockdown, people find music and music lessons a great way to de-stress and keep busy in a more enjoyable way than academic pursuits. That’s why we keep thinking about how we can deliver these experiences to students on different platforms around the world.
How do you think you have redefined music education in Singapore since Aureus started?
J&L: We think the most crucial factor is that we’ve built our entire learning experience around what we think kids want. Everything from the facilities, teacher training programs and new products are designed to make the whole experience truly immersive and exciting for our students.
In addition to what we have been doing, we are innovating a lot more in the future, for example our new learning platform KOKO which will be launched in June to complement our courses and make music learning more accessible to a global audience. .
Our music education brand is appealing to our audience and as such we have experienced phenomenal growth since our inception.
Lawrence, what is the best part of teaching music as a performer yourself?
L : The most fascinating thing about teaching is breaking down how students learn in such variety. The teaching of different types of learners is quite powerful and reinforces how dangerous it is to use only one method to instruct students.
I still believe that customizing instructions and lesson plans for each student is essential, and also helps us understand the process of breaking down problems or methods for each type of student – incredibly complex but necessary! Essentially, I see the best part of teaching music is learning how to learn, and one of the company’s main visions as we grow is to serve learners of all ages and abilities from the best possible way.
Where do you see Aureus in the next five years?
J&L: We find that people of all ages are more and more interested in learning music because they see the benefits that learning music brings. One of our main goals is also to create a hybrid environment of courses in person, online and on an e-learning platform.
We want to build the future format of education, while retaining the human element in learning music. In fact, this is the main difference between KOKO and other online music learning platforms, which rely on gamification via AI and remove the human element from teaching in their programs. KOKO aims to provide the human element of teaching with an engaging curriculum that allows our students to easily visualize complex musical concepts and ultimately become independent learners who do not have to rely on an app or technology to learn a piece of music on their own.
At the same time, we want to be able to give variety to learners who have different musical tastes and interests by allowing them to learn pieces of their favorite music.
For more information, visit the Aureus Academy website and its music learning app KOKO on the App Store.