There are any number of studio music teachers who are embracing the technology to teach online, via Skype or a Youtube subscription series, and probably more ways that I don’t know about. I do applaud those who are seeking to earn a decent living in a profession where this is difficult. I admire the entrepreneurial spirit, admittedly pretty foreign to me.
Music lessons via YouTube is working well for some. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, titled “In the Future, Who Will Need Teachers?” recounts the success of a guitar teacher in Nashville “who uses a series of free YouTube videos and live lessons via webcam to draw students to his $40 monthly subscription plan. Today he has 170 subscribers.” That’s $6800/month. It would be interesting to know how much time he spends on this.
Guitar lessons have always been in a bit of a different category, though. You can walk into a music store and buy 4 lessons. It’s not the same long-term, get-them-while-they’re-young, instill-a-lifelong-appreciation thing that most of us do. Sign up with me and you’re stuck with me for the year. Live and in real-time.
Learning to play an instrument well is physical. I need to touch muscles in arms and shoulders and fingers. Students need to feel my arm weight when I’m supporting it with a single finger.* Tension and pain hampers a lot of enthusiasm and progress.
It’s also mental. The argument is out there that kids are different today because of the technology that is an ubiquitous part of their lives.** That they can’t focus the same way anymore. That we somehow need to compete for their attention. That learning old-fashioned music the old-fashioned (time-tested) way doesn’t cut it anymore.
What I see is that over the weeks and months these students do learn to settle in and focus. A whole new world of sound is opened up to them. Subtle sounds and differences and feelings that are best experienced live. I see it when their arms start moving toward the top of the phrase. I see it in their faces when I demonstrate the beauty and unexpectedness of the deceptive cadence. They get that the music should have ended but didn’t.
And it’s emotional. It’s the building of a relationship – the only one-on-one attention of a non-parent adult that most kids receive. Our influence can be enormous. They are beautiful human beings.
I don’t believe that the traditional music teacher is in danger of becoming obsolete. There are large populations who still value music instruction for their children and still believe that private tuition is the best way to receive it.
That we could potentially be replaced should be seen as a wake-up call, however. It should be motivation for us to hone our craft, always increase our knowledge, and provide as high a quality of education as we can.
Image: via I Like Pianos.
*In today’s climate we need to be very careful here – a completely open door policy is the best way to prevent future issues.
**You won’t see any posts about any Apps on this blog, for the simple reason that I don’t own an iAnything. I’m not opposed – just not going there. I’m always thrilled when my students let me know about the great Apps they have found.