Parents and educators are challenged to find cultural opportunities for their children, given the dangers of COVID-19 and the high cost often associated with such experiences.


With the new online network CultureNet, co-founder David Donnelly is looking make arts learning safer, more accessible, and more fun. "CultureNet is a streaming subscription that includes content that is narrative driven, as well as live interaction," Donnelly explained.


The service is divided into two tiers: One for parents and individuals where content comes in the form of feature-length documentaries, shorts, live broadcasts and personal exchanges, which are viewable on your phone, computer, or places like Apple TV; and one that includes the latter but adds curriculum-based programming designed specifically in conjunction with individual teachers and institutions.


"When it comes to schools, we customize the experience based upon the age, based upon the skill level," he said. "And ultimately what we do is we talk to the educators and we figure out what are the problems they’re facing, what kind of experiences they want for the kids, and we provide customized solutions for them."


Oftentimes these unique educational experiences come in the form of a threefold interaction, where students are able to watch a short form documentary piece from the site, followed by a performance by one of CultureNet’s partner artists, and concluding with an opportunity for the children to ask questions and interact with the world-class artist themselves.


In addition to the content being created for a classroom environment, the site offers other educational material equally suited to parents who are homeschooling, or for those just interested in exposing their children (or themselves) to enlightening cultural programming.


This is embodied in featured documentaries like "The Music Critic" starring John Malkovich and performances by well-known orchestras like the New York Philharmonic or the Berliner Philharmoniker, as well productions found nowhere else like "Music Kids Club," a live show broadcasting every Saturday at 1 p.m. EST featuring internationally-recognized musician Tatiana Berman.



For Donnelly, this kind of content offers the opportunity to introduce children to cultural experiences that they might not otherwise have access to. But it’s also a great way for viewers to expand their understanding and appreciation of art forms that can often seem enigmatic and impenetrable.


"I think a lot of people, they might be intimidated by classical music," he admitted. "Because they feel like they might have to have a degree, or they might to behave a certain way, or not know when to clap, and all of these kinds of stereotypes. So we wanted to remove all of that."


Donnelly himself understands well the roadblocks that many people face when it comes to being exposed to the arts: The director grew up in Kentucky and when given the choice between playing football or sticking with the trumpet and joining the band, he had little inclination to continue on with an instrument that he described as making an "awful sound" when he tried to play it.


But when he suffered an injury in his sophomore year of college, forcing him to give up his playing career, he suddenly found himself with a lot of time on his hands.


Surprisingly, a film production course that he admitted to taking because he thought it would be an easy ‘A’ showed him that a career in the arts was a realistic possibility. A few years later, on the day after he graduated, he moved to Los Angeles and dove immediately into the movie industry.


By 2015, he’d completed his first full-length documentary film "Maestro," about Grammy award-winning conductor Paavo Järvi.


"I got exposed to this world of classical music which to me was very mysterious, and also very [enticing]," Donnelly recalled. "This is a really cool world and I’m surprised that it’s not presented like that in a lot of ways, or we’re not introduced to it like that."


With CultureNet, the filmmaker hopes to allow the next generation of young people to have the opportunity to be exposed to the arts in a manner that he never was.


"[We’re] trying to streamline this experience a little bit to where you don’t have to be a scholar to really appreciate the whole experience, and to open minds and inspire people. Because there’s a lot of this great, beautiful stuff that a lot of people maybe just have never been introduced to in the right way."


CultureNet is available by subscription at www.MyCultureNet.com.


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