Online Lessons Long Term Success

Edited: May 30, 2020, 2:00 PM · Like many teachers on here, I had to switch my students to remote lessons. I am thankful to be able to keep working, but online is not ideal for me or my teaching style. I've gotten myself through the last few weeks with "this is a good temporary substitute for the real thing...only temporary...only temporary...". In a conversation with another teacher the other day, I was told that parents might like the convenience of online teaching so they might continue with it forever. I know in this century everything is online and I should be adaptable, but I really am hoping this is not the case.

What are some thoughts? Is it ideal? Can online lessons long term be as good as the real thing? Has anyone had or heard of students that started out as a rank beginner and took only lessons online and could play well? Are there teachers that are skilled at teaching long term online and like the idea?

I don't want to lose students because they like the convenience of remote learning, but I also dread the thought of teaching over Skype the rest of my life. I'm just having a moment of panic and wanted to reach out to see what others were thinking!

Replies (37)

May 30, 2020, 2:36 PM · As an adult student, I am very impatient for the day that in-person lessons can once again become the norm. I can’t imagine how virtual lessons will ever replace the attributes of actually being there.
May 30, 2020, 3:09 PM · I sympathize with your concern. And I am in agreement with Charles. I can't wait until I can once again have in-person lessons with my violin professor.

There is a coldly practical way to look at it, though.

"The customer knows best" is a great motto for a business in which there is strong local competition among providers and you are constantly hustling, advertising, and cajoling your way to a full client schedule (and the living wage that hopefully comes with it).

"My way or the highway" is a great motto for a business that has a waiting list of eager would-be clients, because of your reputation, track record, etc.

Which one describes your studio?

Will the 2020 Pandemic forever change how business is done? As much as the airline industry contributes to the GDP, my hope is that people realize they can conduct a wide range of business without getting on airplanes. The Boeing 747 consumes ten tons of fuel per hour. I can easily see the point of a parent who is driving 30 minutes each way (or more) for a 30-minute violin lesson (although my own parents did that for years on end). My worry for violin teachers, going forward, is that people will see cyber-lessons as not only more convenient but ALSO that they will think cyber-lessons should somehow be automatically less expensive. That could happen because the competition among cyber-instructors is not limited to one's local scene.

May 30, 2020, 3:25 PM · I think there’s two ways of looking at this. For me as an adult student ( but with decades of experience and classical training on another instrument), I can’t see online lessons as being effective compared to in person lessons. I chose to stop lessons rather than continue online, though I’m also at a point where I can guide my own development fairly well. I do still miss having a good teacher provide hints and help and guidance that comes from years of experience though. And for students who aren’t able to guide their progress yet, online lessons are pretty much necessary if they want to continue to progress.

As for the cost of online lessons, I can see two sides of that, one is parents or students who value convenience, in which case they would probably agree that the same price is fair. On the other hand some parents and students value quality of instruction over convenience. I could see those in the second group thinking that online lessons should be cheaper because the quality of instruction will never match in person lessons. That’s not the fault of the teacher at all, it’s just the inherent nature of online instruction for performance classes. It can be good, but with current technology online lessons will never equal in person lessons.

May 30, 2020, 3:52 PM · Parents may be thinking they have to pay less for quality reasons, but I would want them to pay more for my misery. I know it doesn't work that way though. I just saw what online shopping did to brick and mortar stores, and wonder if it's going to spill over into music lessons. Not only would I be out of my comfort zone, but I would be competing with teachers all over the world who had a knack for online lessons.

A few of my students are chomping at the bit to get back, so it's encouraging. Thanks for the replies, I still have hope!

May 30, 2020, 3:54 PM · I debated starting a new thread related to this but was going to be tempted to throw shade at the other recent related thread which was presumably deleted because the OP didn't like some of the very reasonable and cautionary suggestions, that were freely offered by others who are long-time contributors and generously willing to share their considerable expertise...well, so much for avoiding the temptation. Anyway, I happened to still have the page open in my browser if anyone has any need to refer to what they wrote.

At one of the Suzuki events in the last few years, I attended a presentation by Mary-Elizabeth Brown, who teaches/runs an exclusively online program. Other than Suzuki, she "draws upon the influences of Galamian, Flesch, Paul Rolland, Mimi Zweig, Maria Montessori, Dalcroze, Orff and others" (from her program website). It works for her, clearly, and I think it just takes a different (as compared to in-person lessons) set of skills and motivation of the teacher and students/families to be able to sustain it.

For a non-trivial number of my physical studio students, their lessons mostly felt like musical babysitting. It's one thing to do that in person and quite another via screen, and I had to do something about that right away to prevent my own burnout. I have about 80% continuing online and below Bach Double level, not in full-length private lessons but a more comprehensive sort of distance learning setup. With a few exceptions, they are not "progressing faster or slower" than they were because that really has more to do with their level of effort than mode of instruction.

Edited: May 30, 2020, 6:31 PM · Mengwei I think it was that other thread that made me wonder even more if that would be the norm. Not only do I not feel like the lessons are not as good quality, I do feel like for the younger kids I don't have as much control- they are in their home and I'm just a face on the screen. As an example, a seven year old student just disappeared from the screen unexpectedly. I had to call out to her several times to come back, and when she finally did, her mouth was stuffed full of a blueberry muffin!
Edited: May 31, 2020, 3:57 PM · About cost: (keep in mind that my structure is "Suzuki program" - lessons, groups, events, the whole package)
I've kept all remaining students at their spring semester tuition level, with the exception of a young Pre-Twinkler who was on a group-only schedule/support level and had to be moved up to a standard schedule/support. I do wonder if they feel it's too much because the parent has to do so much work...but that's the way it has to be for a 3 year old, or else you have to wait.

As to Paul's cold practicality: a parent who a few weeks ago had said "stop classes until summer" just today asked if they could pay for an occasional lesson for checking on a piece or something. I said no because I don't want to introduce an exception process (my entire studio is on a program rate and schedule), and I'm not such a high-powered teacher so as to charge for something like a single masterclass or diagnostic/troubleshooting session either. There are plenty of resources that are both free and good quality, if one only wants information, but beginner children need to be on a plan, have follow-up, etc.

In another thread that is not deleted, George Wells mentioned that he "can see fewer skipped/missed lessons in the future" because of having worked out online logistics. I've already done video lessons mainly for weather and extended travel and didn't have a problem with students requesting video lessons "for convenience" but am wary that with everyone getting used to video, there could be increased cases after we are back to mostly-in-person.

I put a great deal of thought and effort into making distance learning meaningful and comparable in value to the physical studio program. No it's not ideal but it's either that or quit/self-study. For musical babysitting, perhaps one could make a case of paying/charging "less for quality reasons" but I won't do that online more than occasionally. I'd rather find some other way to make a living. (Edited to add: "occasionally" is acceptable but is hard to define exactly.)

May 30, 2020, 5:14 PM · "Has anyone had or heard of students that started out as a rank beginner and took only lessons online and could play well?"

It hasn't been long enough to tell. Anyone who has only taken online lessons can only have started taking lessons within the last few years.

Edited: May 30, 2020, 6:11 PM · @Andrew, I think it also depends on your definition of “play well”. A motivated student could have had as much as 8 to 10 years of online learning, which would be enough to see how they are progressing; what pieces they’re playing and how well, etc.
Edited: May 30, 2020, 6:57 PM · I think it was Mary Ellen in an another thread who said that one of the hardest things would be to start up a new student without being in-person. There are just so many aspects of setup that you have to see from every angle and help adjust with your own hands. I agreed that this would be difficult.

It seems to me that we're at kind of a "crossroads" and there is the old saying, "Everything is on the table." So maybe there needs to be more parental participation in lessons with immature students since you cannot prevent them otherwise from walking off and eating muffins. Or you could scale your fees so that Book 1 through Book 4 costs more per hour (the sooner your kid can play the Bach Double the sooner you get a price break). @Mengwei I'm not trying to overplay the mercenary side of this, but teaching violin *is* a business and for a lot of people it's even their primary source of family income. I sense real fear in the community over the possibility that standards of living could be lower for a long time especially when gigs are non-existent and freeway phils are frozen.

Rebecca wrote, "Not only would I be out of my comfort zone, but I would be competing with teachers all over the world who had a knack for online lessons." In the 1980s, secretaries who wanted to keep their jobs and enjoy advancement embraced the computer and learned to use it. In the bigger companies they were provided training; elsewhere they bought that training at their local community college or wherever they could. The first step in developing a knack for something is wanting to do so, and the second step is education. Look, I know all of that is easy to say and (from my own experience) harder to do. I do sympathize. Sometimes, though, your job shifts out from underneath you and you either shift with it or you don't.

May 30, 2020, 8:25 PM · Richard: I suppose that's true. It's just that I don't personally know anyone who took any online lessons before 2015, and I get the impression it didn't really take off until later than that?

As we're seeing during the pandemic, learning online is hardest at the very beginning. I know one teacher who has taught private lessons mostly online for several years, but until the pandemic required children 7 and under to start in person for at least several months. This meant only teaching young children locally while accepting older students long-distance. That seems like a system that could work for many teachers.

I've had more online lessons than in-person lessons myself, was most recently working on the Walton viola concerto (prior to injury), and am capable of playing standard orchestral repertoire on short notice. But then I self-taught for 16 years before my first lesson, so although I did have to rework some basic technique in online lessons I wasn't a rank beginner.

May 30, 2020, 10:12 PM · I realize I'm in a very fortunate position to 1) be able to continue working and 2) be able to absorb *some* income loss, and there are many who cannot say that. It's why when faced with nearly 50% musical babysitting via screen, I could choose to radically change my program structure. The percentage by students is actually less now because most of the 20% who left were in that category and at least one turned into a super-practicer. The percentage by teaching hours (screen time) is MUCH less, within a tolerable range. (Percentages don't tell the whole story though - for example, half of 10 is acceptable but half of 40 isn't.)

After the career change, I've always charged a monthly or program rate instead of per lesson or hour and positioned myself to value and promote long-term, musical relationship and community over convenience. But I'm definitely expecting some families to simply become weary and not expecting newcomers to take their place for an indefinite while. Bach Double and up kids have been around the longest of course and their rate increases over the years have never kept pace with the new kids.

From the now-deleted thread: other than technical skills (covered by others more knowledgeable), as a practical business matter, how do you, having no teaching experience, get a new student to find you online and choose you over innumerable other teachers online? And how do I, for that matter? I don't...and I suppose by the time my roster dwindled to unacceptable levels, I would have a low enough load to tolerate a higher percentage of musical babysitting, heh. As it is though, the energy drain would probably prevent me from teaching the others properly and I'm not sacrificing my health and sanity for that.

For now, I'm inclined to think widespread vaccination would help things "return" to "new normal"? That might be in 2 years, maybe? Logically, 2 years is not forever. I too go through moments of "stress of looming reality" but so far it's manageable.

May 30, 2020, 10:17 PM · Rebecca's observation about young children is interesting. One way of looking at this (the blueberry muffin incident) is that for adults and advanced students, virtual lessons seek to emulate an already established and familiar structure, and may be quite effective for that reason. With prior experience with the traditional lesson encounter, teacher and student might adapt to virtual lessons as a possibly less satisfactory, but acceptable facimile of an in-person lesson - including established expectations of conduct. For a child, everything they encounter is new, and virtual lessons are almost instantly accepted as normal. The downside of this is that while adult would never stop either kind of lesson to get a muffin, the child has no such established expectations, and if the muffin is there, well...
May 30, 2020, 10:19 PM · I have several students who had only 6 in-person lessons before going online and I have been pretty impressed by how well they have been doing with online lessons. 100% of them signed up for summer lessons-which will also be online. For whatever reason my teaching style seems to work well for online lessons, but I haven’t started any students from scratch online yet. I definitely prefer to teach in-person, but I could see the potential for decent long-term outcomes online. (I don’t plan to stay online after it’s safe to go back to in-person though). I hope it will remain a good backup plan for weather and minor illnesses.
May 31, 2020, 12:10 PM · Online lessons IMO are much better than nothing and I am hoping that when the dust settles, what would have been a canceled lesson due to transportation issues or minor illness can now become an online lesson. But I’m looking forward to returning to in-person lessons when safe to do so and I think my students feel the same way.

What I said in the now-deleted thread was that I thought it would be very hard for a new *teacher* to start out with online lessons, which I find harder to teach than the in-person variety, but I think it’s similarly true for a rank beginner starting out, depending on the age of the student. An adult beginner could likely make it work. A four-year-old, probably not, unless there was an adult in the household who actually knew how to play the violin already.

May 31, 2020, 3:29 PM · Sorry I misremembered your comments Mary Ellen. Perhaps I confused yours with some others, as I think the issue of starting up beginners online was mentioned as well.
June 1, 2020, 9:10 AM · Well, during this COVID period I've managed to injure myself, and after some time off to recover, I discovered, when trying again and experiencing pain, that it's a motion that my teacher would have warned me against (because he has in the past), if he could have seen it.
June 1, 2020, 9:53 AM · My teacher has decided to have a series of 3 Zoom plus 1 in-person lesson as a monthly structure moving forward. Who can say when there will be an effective treatment or successful vaccine, and he is rightly concerned about getting the virus. I'm ok with this, given everything, especially as there will be at least one face-face lesson a month. I've too many physical issues myself to stick with a 100% virtual environment.

Of course he also has an adult student orchestra and our rehearsals have started back up as we've a wedding in 4 weeks(!), and of course that cannot be virtual.

June 1, 2020, 10:27 AM · Although I have not had any 1-1 online violin lessons, I have been following a few online art lessons; there is a significant difference between teaching methods and teachers adeptness with the equipment set-up. Both factors require attention. Paradoxically, the best art teachers appear to be the least adept at handling the equipment: the right app, the right camera set-up and screen division, and the best sound. The teachers most adept at setting up equipment so it functioned well for the student had the least effective teaching ability! It is clear that teachers of any subject need time to STUDY and LEARN how to get the best platform, how to get good equipment, and how to get the best performance from it. If teachers are interested in seeing BOTH good equipment and good teaching methods, I recommend watching some Nathan Cole videos--he has both sides (equipment and teaching methods) covered excellently. However, he has been at it for like 10 years. Invest some time, and it will pay off. Once some of the bugs are worked out, I guarantee students will be more attentive!
June 1, 2020, 3:58 PM · As a parent of a 9 year old violin student (current pieces Viotti #22, Bloch Nigun), I agree that zoom lessons have been going much better than anticipated but they are in no way a substitute for in-person lessons. I will be pretty upset if our teacher decides to switch to zoom lessons permanently. We are able to work on intonation and fingerings, but it's been more difficult to work on subtleties in posture and tone, and overall musicality and phrasing. We also miss the social aspects of a studio. A Zoom playdate is not the same as a get together in person. Also for young kids, the formal educational setting of a studio is very important. The "blueberry muffin" example is a case in point. There's a reason that many students behave differently in school than at home. Boundaries and teacher authority are better projected and respected in-person and outside of the home.

The benefits of this period from a parent perspective are that I will no longer be anxious of switching lessons to Zoom when our teacher leaves town for performances or teaching in camps during the summer, and that I have set up my system with better microphones for home recording.

June 1, 2020, 4:39 PM · I took a writing seminar with Cecil Dawkins, a wonderful writer. We got onto the topic of television. She said, "The problem with television (or any screen) is it makes everything the same size. Cartoons are the same size as a tornado. A war is the same size as a toothpaste commercial. it's all one size, and there is no sense of perspective, or dimension." Online lessons, Zoom lessons, FaceTime lessons, Skype, all of it is little more than having a substitute teacher when the real teacher is out of the classroom. Will it work? Well, it has to, doesn't it? But so what? There is nothing - absolutely nothing - like being in the same room with a good teacher. Online lessons are homogenized education and white bread. What's worse, is it's a screen, and that's probably the worst thing to have when experiencing something as real as music. I take lessons on FaceTime with my regular teacher. It works. It's fine, but both of us are more than ready to get back to face-to-face lessons. Now, we're not going to be stupid about it, and do it any time soon. Indeed, even next autumn will be too soon. However, the convenience of a computer screen or an iPhone at home, is little more than a shadow of the real experience of being with a good teacher.
Edited: June 1, 2020, 10:19 PM · We find ourselves in a peculiar position because her piano teacher tells us our daughter is doing so much better with online lessons. I don't know why that's the case but her piano teacher even used the word "thriving."

If my daughter is ready to switch to online format, then she can potentially study with any teachers in the world who are willing to teach online. I looked around out of curiosity and I experienced reverse sticker shock. We aren't looking for new teachers for piano or violin but if we were, there are some interesting choices out there for $10 to $40 an hour.

Having said that, I don't think parents of preschoolers are thinking "We'll get started with an online teacher in Eastern Europe to save a bunch of money!" For all the reasons Liyun Li listed above, most parents want in-person lessons so I wouldn't worry too much about what is to come after the pandemic.

June 2, 2020, 5:48 AM · Thanks Liyun and Michael. You guys make this point much better than I could fairly early in the pandemic - I got no traction :-). I am not a fan of online lessons, and do this more to support our teachers.
Edited: June 2, 2020, 9:13 AM · Liyun wrote, "I will be pretty upset if our teacher decides to switch to zoom lessons permanently." I can't imagine a teacher wanting to do that. But there could be financial reasons. For example, suppose they don't have a space in their home where they can teach so they are renting a studio in a music store or a room in a church. That can get quite expensive.

Kiki wrote, "We aren't looking for new teachers for piano or violin but if we were, there are some interesting choices out there for $10 to $40 an hour." If these people are in the US, then they are likely not relying on music teaching as their primary source of family income, and they don't want to go through the hassle of being trained as fine violinists or as serious pedagogues, nor do they want to suffer the indignity of hustling down clients, so their solution is to undercut the competition. Or they are using their savings to claim market share, building both their studio and ultimately their reputation to the point where they can raise fees to a competitive level.

And yeah, maybe some of those "interesting choices" are totally legit teachers that happen to live in places where the cost of living is much lower. Want to have a comfortable life? Move to India and give violin lessons to kids in the US at $30 per hour. You'll make more than chemists with PhDs.

Here's another thought. If the student is in their own home, then you don't have the issue of the student forgetting their method book or their shoulder rest at home, and you don't have your students complaining that your air conditioning is not set low enough, and or that the air is toxic in your studio, or there's too much street noise for them to concentrate during their lessons or any of that crap. The physical learning environment is their responsibility.

Kiki also wrote, "I don't think parents of preschoolers are thinking 'We'll get started with an online teacher in Eastern Europe to save a bunch of money!'" Perhaps not. But I can see quite a few parents saying to themselves, "I'm glad regular school is going back to in-person, but for an after-school enrichment activity like violin? Maybe online lessons make sense. After all it's not like we're expecting our kid to be the next Bell or Mutter. And with online there are more choices of teachers than maybe we have locally."

I don't think the pandemic will change violin teaching fundamentally. But I think it will change violin teaching from a business perspective. I do think some of the market will shift online. But I wouldn't try to predict how much.

June 2, 2020, 5:20 PM · I have already restarted in-person lessons with my own students, along with smart and reasonable precautions (everyone has to wear masks, keep physical distance, and I always wash my hands before/after touching their violins, if they must be tuned....and of course they're not allowed in if they have a cough).

Slowly, the students are trickling back in (I didn't require that they return to in-person, but simply offered it again).

But there are a surprising amount of them that now say distance learning is so convenient that they may *never* return to in-person lessons. Luckily, this isn't more than 20% of my student base, so it's not the end of the world.

I must admit that teaching over skype and zoom has completed exhausted me, in a way that's hard to describe or explain. But if it's only a small portion of my students, I can deal with it. And I also know that the students that favor convenience over efficacy were never going to be good long-term students anyways, so I don't feel like I've lost that much if they continue on the less-efficient route.

June 2, 2020, 8:43 PM · "I must admit that teaching over skype and zoom has completed exhausted me."

Yeah I know what you mean. Do you find yourself yelling at your microphone just because it's a few feet away from you? That would do it.

June 2, 2020, 9:39 PM · I also find it exhausting to teach through a screen, but there was a definite learning curve and I find it easier now than I did two months ago.
June 3, 2020, 1:49 AM · Its certainly difficult to teach online, but with the right upgrades and tools, and practice, its possible to be setup well so that students can get all of the benefits of your expertise minus touch and mould technique/posture which has to be done through words and mirror copying.

I find that a median microphone setup is important, as well as video demo/tutorials attached to the video conference platform of assignments at the younger stages along with a checklist for parents. Also hardwiring the internet connection is much better than wireless, having 2 devices signed into the same account:one for video conference, the other for typing or recording/sending demo attachments help.

I've found I've had to adjust a bit to how students respond and communicate with families on changing their camera or tech setup to maximize "being in the room" virtually. Teaching now, more than ever, has been a lifeline for musicians during this time.

Edited: June 3, 2020, 3:32 AM · I am almost relieved to have stopped all lessons since last September!
(Although still providing backup for a student whose new teacher is of the "just do it" variety..)
I just changed from wire to optical fibre, so I can download a U-toob in 20 minutes rather than 6 hours, but with the increase in traffic, I still lose my connection several times a day.

I see two big problems with online lessons (as opposed to sending a prepared Q3HD video)
- the appalling sound quality that emerges in video-conferencing, and
- the way we talk far, far too much!!
A lesson is a meeting of minds, and I am sure I use a lot of verbal imagery, but on a demonstration video I find it intolerable and rarely comprehensible: we are not all good actors or public speakers.
I shall try to make my videos with no words at all, just a few subtitles, and rely on gestures.

June 3, 2020, 4:54 AM · No words and a few subtitles will certainly work for some students. But not for all. We don't all learn in the same way, so one size of instructional video doesn't fit all students.

Some students need to see everything so they can copy what they see. Words don't help those students very much.

Some students need to understand at an intellectual level before they can do the physical things. For them video instruction doesn't help nearly as much as verbal explanations.

Some students need to touch/feel/hear the actual instrument and for them online instruction doesn't help much at all.

Some students are all three of those models at various times and concerning various points of instruction.

In a live situation a good teacher will understand what a particular student needs at any given moment and will adapt the teaching style and explanations/demonstrations to suit the needs of the moment. That is much more difficult in an online instructional situation.

I find that is one of the most exhausting aspects of online instruction -- not being present in the room with the student makes it harder to understand exactly what will help them best at any given point since we can't see all their gestures and facial expressions clearly.

Like Mary Ellen, I have found that online teaching has gotten easier during these past two months as I've climbed the learning curve, but it's still much more exhausting than in person, mainly because I'm not as free to move around so physically it's more draining. Having to remain in view of the camera limits a person's teaching ability in my opinion. In person I can move around the student, I can stand up or sit down as my body needs for good blood circulation and comfort, when I play I don't have to make sure that what I'm trying to demonstrate is clearly visible in the camera.

June 3, 2020, 9:43 AM · I think it's the more intense visual concentration that drains me - can't "feel" the student's energy (by that I mean subtle cues in body language), can only see what the camera shows, no peripheral vision, not accustomed to processing what is computer sound and what is from the playing. In a physical lesson, with better sight and sound, it's straightforward to evaluate, plan what question/demonstration/activity comes next, hold some mental notes about what should be addressed another time, and I even write down some notes while starting the next spot/segment. On the screen, it just takes much more mental capacity to process everything. I've also had students run off screen and cry and like to think I'd have picked up on the warning signs in person.

It took a while but I finally realized that some things are better shown via recorded demonstration (when I can fuss with the camera angle/view) than live. It's implementing this sustainably that's causing some consternation.

Edited: June 3, 2020, 10:04 AM · I agree with Mengwei about the draining effect of the intense visual concentration combined with the difficulty of picking up subtle cues that are easy to catch in person.

My longest stretch in front of the screen is a five-hour block of lessons and I have found that standing up and walking around the room a few times between lessons is extremely helpful in maintaining my own concentration. Otherwise it's very much like being on an airplane, only without an elbow in my ribs.

Edited: June 3, 2020, 11:09 AM · I guess one possibility (which has always been a possibility even with in-person lessons) is to schedule your breaks. Thus your students would come at 3:00, 4:10, 5:20, and so on. Of course, then your five-hour workday becomes a six-hour day, which you pay for if you're renting studio time, and which cuts into the time you have available for the rest of your life. And if your six-hour workday is five students instead of six because of your breaks, then of course it's the five that translates into income, not the six.

I find that I can watch online content okay. But making it really intensifies the concentration level and when I stand up from my office desk after making an instructional video for a course (typically a two-hour process for a 20-minute video), I'm light-headed and sometimes even my vision is a little blurred. But if I force myself to take 10-minute breaks every hour then it never happens. I can easily see the concentration level being that high when giving a violin lesson, trying to see and hear every detail of what a student is doing.

June 4, 2020, 2:24 AM · For what its worth, I'd like to offer some thoughts as an adult student. I had my first Skype lesson last night with my regular teacher. We're in the UK and when lockdown was announced, she cancelled all lessons. But as time has dragged on, she decided to offer tuition via Skype. So we had a trial lesson last week to make sure the tech was working OK and then we had a proper hour-long lesson yesterday.

Prior to this, I was somewhat sceptical of the effectiveness of Skype lessons. But at the end of the lesson last night, I think we were both surprised at a) how quickly and pleasurably the time had gone and b) how well it had worked. We were working on the Gavotte and Rondeau from Partita 3, and she was working to improve my interpretation. I have to say, I didn't feel I learnt any less from this session than I did from a face to face lesson.

Does this mean I want to abandon all idea of in-person lessons? Absolutely not. There are many things that don't work in online lessons - I doubt Nancy was getting much real sense of my tone, and of course, there is no way to play a duet.

But I am no longer averse to the idea of having some lessons via Skype. It has some practical advantages. I warmed up before the lesson began (where as normally, having a lesson on the way home from a day in the office, I have to warm up at the start of the lesson), which meant we got straight into tuition. I didn't have an hour in the car crossing the city, always in a minor panic that there's going to be a traffic hold up and I'm going to be late.

For now, as long as we can't meet in person, I'm very happy to continue with lessons via Skype - it's so much better than nothing. And when life has some more normality to it, I may choose to have some online lessons simply to save the awful commute.

On the subject of price, I am slightly bemused by the notion that students or their parents expect to pay less for online lessons - for me, I'm paying for Nancy's time and abilities, and it doesn't matter whether she provides that in person or via Skype.

I write software for a living and constantly face competition from lower-priced overseas providers, so I really understand the concern that simply because someone can offer a service at a cost that I cannot compete with means I'll never get any work. But right now, I've never been busier. Purchasing decisions are based on so much more than price, and for us principle decision points are the quality of service provided and the experience we bring to the table. I'm sure that quality teachers with a demonstrable track record of success can continue to flourish - you might have to up your marketing game, but it can be done.


Edited: June 4, 2020, 4:12 AM · From an adult student's point of view, even before the pandemic, I was already resigned to probably not being able to take in-person lessons for a long time. It doesn't appear there is a local teacher who can teach advanced viola repertoire, accepts adult students, and teaches evenings or weekends; plenty who meet two of those three criteria, but none who meet all three. (When I took lessons it was with a teacher who only had weekday time slots available, so I was only able to take lessons when I could clear time in my schedule in the middle of a weekday or when someone else canceled. I eventually stopped because I was never able to schedule a regular time.) Now that I've mostly recovered from injury and am practicing again, I'm looking for a teacher but have already mostly abandoned the search for anyone local. I think it will just have to be online for the foreseeable future.
June 4, 2020, 7:15 AM · I wish there were like buttons. I would put a like button on all these answers, they have all really helped. Thank you all for your input!

June 4, 2020, 8:38 AM · Your original post rates likes from each of us too, Rebecca. :)

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