If you are a private music teacher who is tired of Zoom and Skype, here is something to consider from longtime Violinist.com member and jazz violinist Jeremy Cohen.
Cohen recently debuted a new web platform designed for one-on-one studio teaching, called String Masters (StringMasters.com). It's something he developed out of his own frustrations with using other online platforms, with the help of two of his students that are software developers.
It's not free like Zoom or Skype, but it's a higher-quality platform that is designed especially for string players. Basically instructors pay $5 per lesson to use it. But right now he's offering a pretty sweet deal for teachers to try it during this time of high need due to Covid-19: basically it is free to use through the end of April, with the possibility of extending that through June. (Click here for a detailed description of the plans and pricing.)
Here are the features that it offers, as described by Jeremy:
I did a walk-through with Jeremy, and I was impressed that the platform does have much more functionality than Skype or Zoom. I have not tried teaching lessons yet on the platform, simply due to the momentum of already being set up on Zoom. But with the real problems of Zoom, I'm certainly interested in alternatives and will let everyone know my feedback when I try this one.
Here is what Jeremy wrote to me about what led him to create the platform:
A few short years ago, a student arrived at my front door in Oakland, California. She had found me on YouTube while surfing the web for interesting string videos and was interested in taking a lesson in person. I agreed to teach Sheri while she was here in San Francisco on vacation.
The lesson went well and we decided to continue our relationship through one of the standard online platforms known to all (and which shall remain nameless). We continued the lessons online for many months, frequently suffering unreliable audio and sub par video. The lessons were achievable but frustrating for both student and teacher. As the teacher I found it easier to chat on these platforms than it was to teach a lesson, given the compressed audio and more than occasionally glitchy video.
Frequently after the lessons we chatted from our respective locations (Toronto and Oakland), commiserating over the limitations of these online chat environments; they just weren’t adequate for studio music lessons. A friendship soon developed into a productive and creative partnership. We began to picture what we could do to make the online lesson experience more like an in-person private studio lesson.
Sheri soon confessed to me that she and her husband, Dathan, both aspiring musicians, owned a software development company. At the time they were very busy with projects, but she assured me that as soon as some time freed up for them, they had something in mind: developing a site that had all of the functionality, bells, and whistles needed for a more successful environment for online teaching and learning than anything currently out in the world.
And so it happened--time passed, projects were completed. Sheri and Dathan came back to me and said, "It’s time," and we got to work. The String Masters idea was born.
There are two distinct aspects to String Masters. First, String Masters is a curated space for viewing video presentations by "string masters"--performers, teachers, and specialists with demonstrable mastery in a wide array of subjects related to string instrument playing. The masters are vetted experienced professionals who have joined the site to share their knowledge and experience with passionate learners at many levels of development.
Second, String Masters is a platform for online teaching studios of all sizes. Operation of private lessons, masterclasses, scheduling, and payments: String Masters has all of this functionality built into the platform, offering solutions to many of the things that so frequently drive studio teachers nuts. String Masters has lesson management tools for teachers and practice tools for students. Pupils can return to the platform between lessons, keeping all lesson literature in an online binder which is also accessible by the teacher. An online library of public domain etudes and other literature can be organized into online binders, viewable and editable during and between lessons.
Careful testing, designing, and collaborating between partners and friends has created this new and wonderfully useful environment for musicians, using the most current tools available on the internet. Many platforms brought to the web, as well as many things in this culture and society, are driven by big interests. Let's face it--money and commerce drive the bus in our world. We believe this project, born from the close knit relationship between student and teacher, is different. It has been an honor and a joy to work on this project with dedicated colleagues and friends, pursuing together the creation of a high quality environment for a community that yearns for this functionality.
The time has finally arrived to share String Masters with our colleagues and community. Students, private teachers, studios, schools, and conservatories, we hope all will benefit from the utility we offer through String Masters.
If this interests you, Click here for information.
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