Online Lessons – Let the Music Play

Our decision last week Sunday to move to online music lessons the next day, meant we had to move fast. We needed to figure out how best to communicate our lessons effectively, keep our pupils engaged and motivated and also ensure they are still learning to their best potential.

That’s a process and we are working on it. Hard. We are also facing the reality that not all families have had Wifi access and some have been keen to quit lessons at this time. Many of our families are in a panic. Work is spiralling, parents are now dealing with kids being at home and the reality of having to deal with all the school work that is being sent – potentially a lack of devices and trying to juggle their own jobs with all their children’s needs.

What I want to communicate here is that in all of this chaos, music is the one thing that can be a help right now, especially for your children. All extra murals for your children have stopped, they are in forced home isolation and once they’re getting a handle on finding a routine for their school subjects, music is something that can help them tremendously. I don’t need to go into all the scientific benefits of music on helping with other subjects – but they are literally in a position where for the first time, other than the school subject demands, there are less distractions. They have time to spend practicing.

We already know that a weekly lesson is not going to make anyone a good musician. It’s the time between those lessons that will. Pupils can literally take this opportunity to get really good at something that is not only going to benefit their school work, but can also be their escape, their “go to”. We are doing our best to pre-record lessons for pupils who may want to work at their own pace and for families who are battling to clock in at the designated times because there aren’t enough computers. We are looking at every way possible to keep them motivated with new repertoire and to just keep going.

Many of our parents were hesitant to let their children continue online and yet we are seeing so many benefits with this adaptation of teaching. Even with our adult lessons. The online lessons force all of us to be completely focused. We have to all be watching and listening and because all I can see as the teacher are the hands (and sheet music) I am watching for technique and pupils are acutely aware of this as that’s where the camera is. Pupils are not able to be distracted as our communication has to be far more precise and to the point. Our younger pupils are learning how to communicate effectively. We can’t see a shrug or necessarily their facial expressions depending on the set up at home, so they have to find their words. They have to listen carefully to what we are saying and follow instructions in the moment. What amazing skills. They have the opportunity to press pause or go back when the lessons have been sent to them. They can go at their own pace.

The benefits of online learning are tremendous. I have just launched my ‘Piano 101 for Producers’ course with Udemy and the process of putting that course together has given me a great deal of insight as to the differences between classroom learning and online learning. Topics are to the point. They are short and pupils need to be able to press pause and go over concepts again and again. Lessons need to be specific and engaging. Online lessons mean teachers have to direct pupils to look at something, to write something ,to play something without the usual visual cues. But I loved the process. In terms of learning, these are exciting times.

We know that for our younger pupils this has meant additional time for our parents. So thank you. We are all overwhelmed and trust me, I have already been affected on a business level and am doing my best to keep all my teachers with an income too, so I know that the ripple effects of all of this is massive.

But all of that aside, whether you’re sticking with us over this time or not – encourage your children to play. I do believe that this is the one thing that they need right now. And to our adult pupils – use this time to work on your music. How often do pupils come to me saying they just haven’t practiced because they’re too busy?

You’re not driving your kids to school or extra murals, you’re forced to be at home and perhaps the dishes can wait for just a few more minutes. Find your music.. Stay safe and we’ll see you soon. Until then meet us on Zoom, Skype, Face Time or Whatssap. 😉

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Toni Crichton
Toni is passionate about sharing her love of music. She values the role of music in education and the role music plays in the development of each individual. When Toni is not teaching at her home studio in Cape Town, she also consults for the movie industry and is a regular performer at some of the top hotels and venues in Cape Town.
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