Rob Sayer, founder and CEO of The Music Class, holds a smartphone to film a class, which will broadcast in China for families who stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak. The Music Class is an international music education program. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Music classes taped in Dunwoody offered to kids quarantined in China

Once a week, Susan Wallace and her young daughter, Juliette, gather with other parents and children for a music class in Dunwoody. They sing, play drums and twirl around.

But, on this particular day, an air of seriousness hung over the room.

There would be singing and drumming and twirling to come — but for a cause.

Lan Lin (left) and Raina Sayer, who work at The Music Class, lead a class that will be shared online with families in China. With classes canceled in China during the coronavirus outbreak, they are filming classes here in Atlanta and broadcasting them free on a WeChat channel. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Cumming mother and her 3-year-old daughter were volunteers for a special videotaping to be posted online. The Wallaces’ music class is one of the programs offered by the aptly named Atlanta-based company, The Music Class, which operates in more than 1,000 locations worldwide. Many of those locations are in China, where a deadly coronavirus outbreak has prompted the cancellation of an array of activities, from celebrations and conferences to sporting events and early childhood music class.

With millions living under quarantine, many of those activities have been relegated to online.

“I couldn’t imagine not being able to go outside and to be scared for your safety and your children’s safety,” said Wallace, whose eyes teared up as she slipped off her shoes and prepared for class.

Americans are responding. Some big companies — including the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and UPS foundations, in partnership with MedShare — are sending surgical masks. Some are sending money. The Music Class is sending music class.

Rob Sayer, owner and director of the company, said more than 20,000 kids take The Music Class programs at young children’s educational centers in China.

» RELATED: Atlanta’s Chinese community has especially deep worry about coronavirus

» MORE: The flu more of a threat in Georgia than new coronavirus

He decided to set up the video camera earlier this month at the Dunwoody location. Colleagues in China are adding introductions in Mandarin, and the videos will be posted for free on WeChat, the Chinese multi-purpose messaging and social media app. The music classes will be available to not only students already enrolled, but to other housebound families in China with access to the app.

Rob Sayer, founder and CEO of The Music Class, holds a smartphone to film a class, which will broadcast in China for families who stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak. The Music Class is an international music education program. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sayer and his daughter, Raina, worked with a staff member, Lan Lin, who is originally from China, to combine songs and dances in both English and Mandarin.

“Imagine a friend of yours being stuck in home or an apartment,” said Sayer, who was scheduled to travel to China with his daughter Raina last week to do a training. “It’s got to be terrible. Your heart reaches out to anyone confined like that, and I just thought this is something we can do.”

The virus, officially named COVID-19, has sickened 74,000 people and killed more than 2,000 in China.

At least 34 people in the United States are infected with the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

Meanwhile in Georgia, there are no confirmed cases, but nearly 200 residents are self-quarantined in their homes. All of those confined recently returned from trips to China. Georgia authorities said none visited China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Lan Lin (left) and Raina Sayer, who work at The Music Class, lead a class that will be shared online with families in China. With classes canceled in China during the coronavirus outbreak, they are filming classes here in Atlanta and broadcasting them free on a WeChat channel. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On that recent morning in Dunwoody, 10 mothers and their pre-school aged children cheerfully danced and sang songs with simple lyrics in both English and Mandarin. They squealed in delight when a lion puppet made a surprise appearance.

Wallace said she and her daughter enjoyed learning new words in Mandarin. She was also was happy to be a part of something that may bring a little joy and smiles to families many miles away.

“One of my primary goals is to teach my children to care about others,” said Wallace. “This is a small but significant way to do that.”

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