One year ago, this flute studio moved to all online music lessons. It was a massive shift in the way I teach.
There have been some truly wonderful things that have come about because of the online music lessons. The students have stayed motivated and are all making good progress. I have learned a lot about my students and their resilience. Our weekly visits during online music lessons always start with a chat about what is happening in their world. Some are going to school in-person. Others are online. Without exception, they are adapting to the changes with grace and good humor.
Online music lessons have been terrific during the bad weather this past February. Here in Central Ohio, we had a full month of snow. Normally, I have to cancel lessons when there is bad weather. Either the roads are icy or our gravel driveway is impassible. But virtual lessons solve this problem easily. I could watch the snow falling outside the window while remaining safely inside. The students didn’t have to risk life and limb to attend a lesson. Moreover, I didn’t even have to shovel the front walk or put down salt! Perhaps best of all, lessons were not interrupted by the bad weather. Students did not have to skip a week or reschedule due to the bad weather. My income and schedule stayed constant.
We’ve had lots of laughs discovering Zoom backgrounds and filters. Overall, I think the students are more comfortable and less nervous playing from the familiar surroundings of their homes. Parents tell me they are grateful to not have to drive to lessons and wait in the car.
Perhaps the most delightful thing about teaching online is meeting the family pets. Cats seem to like lessons the best. Some of them like to meow along to the music. Others like to get in front of the camera. But mainly I see them curled up in the background, enjoying a Minuet.
Usually, we have the annual studio recital in November. This year, of course, having an in-person recital was not possible. Instead, we had a Zoom “studio class.” Parents, friends, and extended family were invited to attend as silent watchers. The class was recorded by Zoom, which was great because at least one parent couldn’t attend.
I did have to purchase a Zoom subscription to host the recital / studio class. Nonetheless, the monthly subscription price was less than I would have spent on snacks for the recital if we had been in-person.
During the online music lessons, getting enough bandwidth can be tricky in my family. We have good internet service and if I’m the only one home, it’s no problem. However, when the kids are home, it’s a different story. If someone is playing games on the Xbox and another kid is streaming YouTube, the internet will slow down. Then my online music lessons are affected. This is usually solved with a quick text to the kids that says “I’M TEACHING – NEED MORE BANDWIDTH!”
Fortunately, the students seem to understand what’s going on and they are patient. Perhaps they have this problem with their online classes for school too.
Two of my students, who live in rural areas, take their lessons on FaceTime. Zoom seems to require high speed internet. FaceTime can run off of the cell towers rather than WiFi, but only on iPhones. I prefer Zoom because the audio quality is better and I can share my screen. Also, Zoom has a whiteboard that I use for writing rhythms or fingerings.
I’m not sure when it will be time to return to in-person lessons. As of this writing, I have received one shot of the COVID vaccine and will get the second shot soon. A vaccine hasn’t been approved for children yet, and it’s not practical to expect physical distancing during lessons. Certainly, we cannot wear masks while playing the flute. For now, online music lessons seem to be working reasonably well. I do miss seeing all the students. It’s not the same seeing them on a computer screen. I look forward to being able to hand them a piece of music and take it home. I’ll be glad to be able to see their fingers and work on tone in a meaningful way.
One last picture to give you a laugh – in the photo below, the student’s phone has just fallen off the music stand during a virtual lesson. I’m amused because I can hear shuffling but all I can see in the camera is the ceiling. When she picks it up, I snap this picture and we both laugh.