Much like regular education, music lessons have persisted through the COVID-19 quarantine.
For some music instructors, distance learning is nothing new. Prior to the quarantine, piano teacher Dale Kettering had taught her share.
She used to commute to Eagle and Summit counties to teach several students. She eventually decided to stop commuting yet continue teaching those students digitally.
Post quarantine, 50 percent of her lessons have transitioned to online learning, and her adult students have had to postpone their lessons.
While she is still able to teach students online, she does prefer to teach them in person and play along with them.
“I have fun duets that go with all the pieces they learn,” she says. “It is also a bit difficult to be able to check fingerings.”
On the other hand, Kettering feels the online lessons have helped with her students’ concentration and responsibility during lessons.
Her students from the Hachmann family have also taken well to the online lessons. Eight-year-old Emmett Hachmann says digital music learning has gone “pretty well. I think it’s easier because we can stay at home.”
However, he still looks forward to going back to in-person learning because “I like seeing people a lot.” It can also be easier to learn a lesson in the same room as Kettering, but he feels he’s still making progress, as is his 6-year-old brother Easton who is also working smoothly through the process.
Emmett is currently working on the song “Little Playmates” which he is set on playing 100 times on his own piano. Easton, meanwhile, has recently learned a new song, “Au clair de la lune.”
Coleman Smith of Coletrain Music Academy also teaches students digitally, some even out of state, via Skype. By now, all of the academy’s local students have also made the move to Skype.
“Skype lessons have always worked really well for our students abroad and out of state. It also works well for my students who are also traveling and performing musicians,” Smith says.
The transition to digital learning “was pretty seamless” thanks to the preestablished Skype lessons, making progress more than possible even for local students like Dan Schmidt from Salida.
“Coleman’s done an excellent job of providing some additional tools,” Schmidt says. “In fact, I was a little bit not very sure about doing Skype lessons before, but once I got into them, I find that they’ve been very effective. He provides materials online so I can download the notations. We do our lessons. Afterward, he does another group lesson thing online that I check into. I don’t have to travel to BV. I feel very relaxed in my own little environment at home.”
Schmidt appreciates being able to do lessons face to face, but doing them this way has gone surprisingly well. He’s been able to get more practice done with the provided reference tools, and he hasn’t missed a beat. Plus, not making the drive to Buena Vista as often has made things easier.
Though he feels everyone is doing great with distance learning and staying on top of their lessons, Smith is sure there are plenty of local students who look forward to connecting again at the studio and missing the Thursday group jam sessions.
However, the academy is making up for this by providing a free Facebook Live Group Class every Thursday.
“The class has grown to almost 100 students from all over the U.S., Europe and India. It’s pretty cool since our studio in BV maxes out at about 25 students. Online we’re unlimited so it’s been really great for me to be able to provide education to those I might not have otherwise reached,” Smith says.
Whether it’s virtual or in person, Smith loves not only teaching music but also sharing his love for the fine arts with those who are mutually interested in it and are willing to devote their time to it.
However, not all music teachers have relied on digital teaching. Violin teacher Noelle Hogan never offered online lessons prior to the pandemic, preferring face-to-face learning.
“I’ve been teaching for 20 years and the part I love the most is spending time with my students,” Hogan says.
“There are many that keep in touch and still visit me to play duets or simply talk after they’ve moved on to college and life beyond,” she said. “Just as teachers in the school district would prefer to teach in person and expressed truly missing contact with students during this time of distance learning, I feel the same way.”
When the stay-at-home guidelines came into effect, she took that as her cue to take 3 weeks off from music teaching, playing at weddings and cleaning houses.
Then for the next 3 weeks, she sent her students some digital assignments including sheet music, YouTube videos focusing on techniques and scales and songs to review.
Students or their parents could call or FaceTime her at certain times of the day to ask questions, or students could play songs they’d learned or have Hogan play something to help them learn.
On May 1, the Chaffee County Public Health office gave her a Safe Business Certificate, allowing her to teach in person again.
“It’s been wonderful!” she says. “Playing face-to-face with learners is the absolute best way to pass on intonation, correct technique and the ways of the art of violin.
“Based on this experience, I would not pursue teaching violin in any other way, but that’s just me. I’m sure there are string teachers who have discovered ways of teaching online successfully.”
Better yet, she’s received comments from parents on how the students’ motivation picked up after returning to face-to-face lessons.