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For Aspiring Musician, Online High School Allows for Dual Enrollment in Elite Music Institute

When Emily DeNucci found out that she was accepted into the Curtis Institute of Music, the 16-year-old flute player began searching for somewhere to finish her high school education at the same time. A music conservatory, Curtis offers students a way to further their music education by taking only music-oriented coursework. 

DeNucci had already taken an online class, AP® Music Theory, through the nonprofit VHS Learning. Then she learned about Massachusetts Mayflower Academy (MMA), the full-time online private high school accredited by Middle States Association (MSA-CESS) that operates as an affiliate program of VHS Learning.

“I thought MMA would be a good fit for me to finish my required high school classes while also attending Curtis,” said DeNucci. Curtis enrolls students under the age of 18 because it accepts people based on ability regardless of age. “The acceptance process at Curtis was quite rigorous.  After I applied to the college, I went through a pre-screening where I recorded and submitted three pieces. Next, I proceeded to the live round, which was an audition via Zoom,” DeNucci recalled. “I was required to play three pieces and later learned I had been accepted into the studio; and now I'm at Curtis.”

DeNucci has always had a passion for music. “I was interested in music theory and as a freshman, took the VHS Learning AP® Music Theory class. “I found out about the VHS Learning course through my local school, Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.” 

“It’s unusual and really an accomplishment for a freshman to take such an advanced course and she did exceedingly well,” said Carolyn Bennett, who taught the course online. Bennett currently serves as an Instructional Coordinator at VHS Learning, MMA’s parent organization. “Access to that advanced curriculum helped her further her passions, and now she’s seeing how her VHS Learning course has empowered her to succeed in her college-level music theory course at Curtis this semester.”

In addition to her course work at Curtis, this year DeNucci is taking a full complement of high school courses online through MMA, including biology, statistics, pre-calculus, peacemaking, and an English class. Each course furthers her academic drive while supporting her work as a musician in a different way. “I really like the pre-calc course because I like math and I find the biology course fun because we get to do experiments and labs,” said DeNucci. “I also feel that the early AP® Music Theory course helped develop and hone my theory knowledge. And the math courses have helped me because of the way music so naturally relates to math.”

For her required courses, DeNucci likes how the work she does with MMA is asynchronous, so although the online class is paced and has deadlines and due dates, she can complete coursework at times throughout the day that work best for her. This provides her with a great deal of scheduling flexibility, which is important because her Curtis class schedule changes often. “The classes through MMA allow me to be flexible with my schoolwork and get it done in the time that I have outside of Curtis classes,” she added. 

At Curtis, DeNucci is taking music theory and also completing flute lessons and participating in chamber and orchestra. She attends school and practices her flute daily and aspires of one day playing professionally in an orchestra and teaching others how to play the flute.  

“MMA has definitely helped me pursue my goal of being a musician,” said DeNucci. “Without it, I wouldn't be able to dedicate as much time to music as I would have if I had to do in-person school or online school with scheduled Zoom classes.”

DeNucci will finish up her MMA high school courses in May 2023 and at that point will be able to dedicate her time to Curtis, whose program takes about 4-5 years to complete. In the interim, she’ll be paying close attention to her time management to ensure she meets all of the deadlines for both programs. 

“Having a flexible schedule is important to completing the work that needs to be done in my classes,” said DeNucci, who finds MMA’s instructors to be supportive and easy to communicate with. “The teachers all have office hours,” she added, “and you can also contact them anytime through a discussion post with a private topic, which is just between you and your teacher.”

There’s a great deal of learning involved with becoming a successful musician. To perform well, musicians must learn how to read, interpret, and analyze music. DeNucci is well on her way to achieving her goal of playing professionally. Bennett, a highly qualified music educator, and a former Library of Congress Teacher-In-Residence, states “Throughout AP Music Theory, Emily impressed me with her deepening knowledge and insights about music.”

Of course, it takes more than knowledge to become a successful musician. Musicians must budget their time as they strategically work toward long-term goals and dedicate hours to practicing, and they also thoughtfully consider how they can practice to effectively achieve their vision and goals. 

“As I see Emily engage in a variety of courses as an MMA student, I see her exercising these skills as a self-motivated and efficient learner,” said Bennett. “Between her musical expertise and her purposeful approach to learning, I’m excited for Emily’s bright musical future.”


Emily's story can also be read here