Students Turn to Webcams to Learn to Play an Instrument

young woman playing an instrument For many people, learning a new skill is a great New Year’s Resolution. You could sign up for expensive private lessons, take classes at your school, or do what Dr. John McClure did and take lessons from someone who lives on the other side of the country.

McClure, who lives in Minnesota, was learning how to play the bagpipes from a friend and was really enjoying his new-found hobby. However, when his friend moved away, McClure had to find an alternative way to continue learning. So he turned to Jori Chisholm – a bagpipe player who won first-place at the 2010 Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, and who currently lives in Seattle – to help him continue improving. So how does McClure receive his lessons? Does he fly across the country every week in order to take the lessons? Of course not. The two men use Skype in order to connect and practice; sometimes they even have a lesson when McClure, a pathologist, is at work.

“I’ve been on call, waiting for a specimen from the O.R., and I’ll do a lesson with Jori,” McClure said. He uses a practice chanter, which is basically a bagpipe without a bag, in order to keep the lessons quiet and hospital-friendly.

I have lived abroad twice and have used Skype to stay in touch with my friends and family back home. However, I never really thought I’d use it actually learn something, but this seems to be one of the latest trends in education.

“I’ve seen videos of individuals teaching students all over the world,” said Gary Ingle, chief executive of the Music Teachers National Association. “There will be people who would never take a music lesson unless it’s done online. As music teachers, we should be willing to meet students where they are.”

Conducting lessons online via webcams also makes it easier for parents of those students who want to learn to play an instrument. Susan Patterson’s daughter, Taylor, took lessons from a teacher who lived 45 minutes away. Now, she takes her lessons online, saving her mother’s time and gas money.

“There were some [teachers] that were not advertising for Skype, but I proposed it to them,” said Mrs. Patterson. “Out of the 15, 5 were willing and able to do the lessons. It’s accessibility with quality.”

It’s also better for the teachers who are giving the classes. Like Mrs. Patterson, they save time and money by avoiding the commute to the classrooms where they teach. They also reap some other benefits that might not seem as apparent.

“People who do online lessons end up doing a more consistent lesson schedule,” said Nick Antonaccio, the owner of a small music studio in Pennsylvania. “They don’t have to fight snowstorms. They don’t have to take an hour a day to get to us. Other things don’t conflict, like baseball games.”

It seems that, in short, Antonaccio is saying these online lessons are easier and more convenient for both teachers and students. Will they ever completely replace real-life, face-to-face music lessons? Probably not. But in a world where we are constantly try to cram as much as possible into our already busy days, I think they will definitely become more common place.

Via The New York Times

One Response to “Students Turn to Webcams to Learn to Play an Instrument”

  1. Music Theory Online says:

    Kelsey, what a terrific article. You are certainly talking my language here. I am a piano in theory teacher and have been getting online lessons for a number of years now. For my piano students we use Skype or GoToMeeting and when we use Skype we also have a MIDI connection where my piano ( digital) and their piano ( digital) are connected -this way I can hear all of the nuances that I would hear “live”. for theory students they log on to my website Music Theory Online where they view their lesson. They then complete their homework assignments, scan and send them to me and I then mark them. I currently have students in Africa, Germany, throughout Canada, Jamaica, and in the USA. I teach for my home studio in Ontario, Canada.

    Yes,you can learn an instrument with the teacher at the end of a computer.thanks again Kelsey for a great article.

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