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23.04.20 – Darrell Priestley
Since trials of online teaching began fully one month ago, most of our students are now on board and having regular lessons, so I wanted to take the chance to welcome you all – wherever have you been? No, don’t answer that, I can guess!
After auditioning several possible apps that allow online meetings with both sound and vision, we finally settled on Microsoft Teams as being the most suitable for both our purposes and scale. This proved to be a good decision. Microsoft’s new flagship meeting software is clearly very important to the company, and as I understand it is under continual development. Crucially, though, it is meeting our needs very well, and is proving simple to use in practice.
Once someone has joined their first online ‘meeting’, it’s proving very straightforward in repeat meetings, is quick to connect and slick to use, offering decent sound and vision, which in practice are limited only by the hardware used. Teams is easy to get the hang of, with a clear display and accessible controls. A relative joy to use, in fact.
When it became clear that continuing my love of teaching music meant moving online, I believed instinctively that we, the other teachers led by myself, could make it work. Look at everything as an opportunity, and you will see that the present situation has it’s advantages. Students, most of them, have more time in one place now than ever before, with access to their instrument. It follows that, if you plan your practice time around your lesson time, warming up before and following up on new ideas staight afterwards, you will get a great start on your week’s work. And so it is proving.
I offer my students guidance on how to approach practicing in the present situation, and there is no doubt it is working well for everyone, especially after two or three lessons to get used to it. Of course, some things are more complicated, like demonstrating technic, and it is here that the teacher really has to adapt their approach, so as to find other ways to achieve the goals they set. However, this is also where a good teacher proves their worth, and again, a good teacher will relish such challenges. But it would not be true to say that I don’t miss live lessons, or the joy of playing duets with my students in real time. While I do not see online lessons as a substitute for the live work I do in person, it certainly offers a very viable alternative at this time.
There is always something very special about sharing music with others, and the best examples of that are playing music ‘live’ with others, in the same place and at the same time. Because of the slight time delay online, this is just one example of where in person lessons will always excel. One thing that I have always done, and never better than now after more than four decades of teaching practice, is to create excercises to help students overcome the immediate challenges they face on pieces they are learning. Working live, it is easy to come up with great ideas, practice drills and so on, and convey them very quickly to students, in a way that suits them as an individual.
At this point, all teachers are now bringing or have already brought their students on board with online music lessons. There were practical reaons that delayed this happening on a large scale at first, and Eileen and I have worked hard, spending long hours and much effort at the kitchen table to get things to this point. We had to confront the fact that major changes were needed to the business back end to facilitate this, but to mix a few mataphores we bit the bullet, pulled out all the stops and left no stone unturned. Happily, that work is mostly done now, with just a few finishing up jobs still to do. Nearly all of my students are now well under way, with the last few taking their first online lesson this week. Hallelujah!
While we have made strenuous efforts to contact everyone, we know that sometimes emails can be missed, or the email address we have for you may now be out of date. If you have not heard from us, please email and request information about lessons online. This also includes free support for students who would like lessons, but are not in a position to take them at the moment. We have prepared for this need, and would be pleased to help all our existing students, because we know how how great a difference having music can make to your life, and even the lives of those around you, at testing times like the one we are all living through.
Remember, we are here for you, just an email away. Stay safe, and stay strong.
With love to all, Darrell & Eileen