Adding Online Lessons to our Studio Offerings-Could Online Music Lessons Be As Good?

People have been successfully teaching online music lessons for years now. It sounded  slightly interesting to me for someone else. I liked having my students in the same room with me. Teaching through a remote camera sounded exactly like that to me- remote. How could you be personal with students from a distance?

It seemed like a crazy thing to do. Maybe for those instructors that were settling for second best. Since, they were too far away from their students, they were forced to teach through video or over the phone.

I felt that you would have to have an extraordinary student. It would have to be an advanced student who favored your expertise above anyone local, so they just had to have you from a distance.

I’m not that wrapped up in myself to believe that I could from a distance be a better instructor remotely than anyone else on a local level. I also, just couldnlt get over thinking that it would be impersonal.

Then there were the logistics of trying to teach piano remotely. How ould you move your students hands when they were in the wrong place on the piano? How could you write notes in their books? How would you play along with your students in duet playing? What if I couldn’t see or hear the student very well?  No matter how I thought about it,  I was concerned that online lessons might not be as good as in-person. I didn’t want to offer an inferior product, so I just chose to not teach remotely.

Going Back To College Online

When I went back to school to finish my music degree in my mid-forties, I  found myself being a student that actually desired online lessons. Although I didn;t want to teach remotely, I thought it might actually be a good idea for myself.   I lived too far from any campus, and my work schedule and family commitments were too demanding to allow for commuting. 

After searching for an online degree program that would work for me, I  ended up finishing at Valley City State University in North Dakota. VCSU is one of the few state universities where if you have already had enough performance credits completed, you can finish a music degree online. So, in spite of my reservations about online learning,  I ended up studying online myself.

It turned out to be a very effective and satisfying experience. I could attend the classes synchronously or asynchronously.  It worked around my busy work schedule. I was able to keep working and not let my family commitments lag. My private composition lessons were engaging, and I looked forward to working with my professor every week. It was just fine. In fact, it was more than just fine. It was downright efficient.

Finishing college was a big deal life achievement for me.  It was something that I had needed to do personally to find closure. I had attended college for several years, but I only had an A.S. Degree to show for it. This could be attributed to the fact that I had transferred colleges because I preferred studying by a lake over finishing quickly. Upon back pedaling fron a university to a junior college, I decided to add a theatre minor. Then I took some time off to get married, and then of course moved to the mountains and had babies.

I had started teaching music in a private music school. which enabled me to receive mentoring and earn some certifications. I guess I did it my own curvy way instead of the traditional  linear path. As it turned out, I taught for over two decades before going back to college. When I finally went back after my sons were grown, I finished my long awaited Bachelor degree completely online in a year and a half.  Online learning had made it possible and affordable for me. When my diploma finally arrived in the mail, I took a long awaited exhale. It was a huge sigh of relief to have at long last finished my  life goal of completing my degree.

According to a survey by the Babson Survey Research Group, even before the world went online for Covid 19,  33% of college students were taking at least one online course. 

It had already been a common thing for many modern students to take online courses or for corporate workers to attend meetings online. But until I went back to college, It hadn’t entered my world yet. Finishing college online opened a new world for me. 

I started thinking that maybe I might like to try teaching online lessons.

As my husband and I are (ahem, cough) aging, we had dreamed of being more mobile.  We thought maybe we might travel more and teach on the road. Perhaps, we could go live in the mountains again or maybe by the beach part of the year… could teaching online open doors to travel that seemed impossible now? Anywhere in the world with high speed internet could potentially be our classroom if we were brave enough to give it a go.

We talked about it quite a bit, and decided that we really would love to go live in the mountains again. We wanted to avoid traffic and wake up every morning to beautiful views.

In January I took the plunge. I asked an adult student (one that I knew was tech saavy) if he would be willing to take a couple musio lessons online. He could help me get my feet wet without too much risk.

He kindly agreed and we had two online lessons. I used Zoom because it was free and had the potential of teaching to groups should I ever want to. After the basic set-up, using Zoom was easy. I just scheduled the lesson, sent an email invite to my student and he joined. He had a webcam and so did I.

There were a couple of sound issues. I found that I needed to use the mic on the webcam rather that my laptop. There was a little lag. At one point I had him clap a rhythm with me and we weren’t together. No biggy.  My intent was to offer online lessons by Summer to anyone who wanted them.

In March 2020, Corona Virus took Centerstage and online lessons were happening immediately…

By mid-March  the local schools closed and everyone started working from home. We closed our studio to in-person instruction. Like much of the world, the state of Idaho was in lockdown. Suddenly, the online forums and Facebook groups were full of independent music teachers giving online music lessons.

It seemed that everyone was scrambling, trying to figure it out.  How could we do this well. Online music lessons went from a fringe movement to the new normal. Literally, our entire music teaching industry moved online in two weeks. We personally moved 75 students (many of which had been in classes) to online private lessons in a week.

That was March 2020, and I have been teaching online ever since. I started writing this blog post March 16, but I didn’t publish it. In fact, I  just set it aside, because I had too much to learn myself to write about anything other than…I’ll let you know how it goes…

It’s September 2020 and I Love Teaching Music Online!

It’s halfway through September, and I am happy to say that I love teaching  music online! I have so many positive things to say about the online classroom experience.  I have noticed how it is actually a better learning environment for some of my families. I have had students that were merely coasting along in their studies flourish.  I will write about that in a separate blog post. There is so much to say.

What I do want to address now is how it has opened up the reality of our dream of moving back to the mountains of Idaho after 20 years away.  We had talked about it, but how would we teach our students? Online learning has made it possible to keep the students who want to keep learning from us  because of the relationship we have built, doing so at a distance.

We have moved back to my husband’s hometown and we are buying the family mountain property he grew up on. We are excited to  update it and make it our own. Our sons are grown and they will stay in Boise, but now they have a retreat to come to for visits. Someday, they will inherit this property and we are excited to give them this legacy with a peaceful view.

Terre has a new job working in IT at the hospital in his hometown. He is teaching a few students afterhours online and in our new downtown location. I am teaching more as it is my main focus, and I have online students and new students in our new studio space.

What a wild year this has been so far for everyone globally.  On a personal level, we are amazed by the grace of God and the tender mercies that are extended to us daily. When  our family stood and toasted to clearer 2020 Vision on New Year’s Day, how could we have known what we were even asking for?

All I know it that we have been lovingly handled throughout all the 2020 chaos. When all the smoke from the current forest fires clear, I trust that we will see farther and with a keener perspective. I’m still learning new ways to navigate these changes each day, but I know we have a good good Father who is holding us in His  big hands. We truly are getting clearer 2020 vision…we’ll see in time.  But, I am truly thankful for online learning and the doors that it has opened  for so many of us this year.