Sunday, June 14, 2020

Lessons in the Cloud

It has been an interesting ride.  Online piano lessons.  I scoffed at the very thought!  And here I am, having become somewhat competent after 3 full  months.  I have learned a lot in these past 13 weeks.  I believe my students have learned even more!

They have all accepted the challenge of distance-learning with grace.  They didn't have a choice, of course.  School went online, church went online, even sports practice went online.  Go figure!  So piano lessons too.  The first week covered placing the laptop or phone properly so I could see the keyboard; to the right and slightly behind, at about shoulder height seems to work best.  Then getting comfortable performing in front of a screen.

We moved on from there, week by week.  Since I can no longer point to problem areas in the the music, I have to verbally direct the students' eyes to the page, the line, the measure.  This helps the students to focus on the printed page.  They need to mark their own scores now; my red pencil sits idly on the music stand.  Zoom has been a godsend, but the syncing of audio and video still has delays.  I cannot clap along while the students play.  I can demonstrate, but they need to do the work to get the rhythm.  They need to count the beats as they play, and subdivide, on their own.

Four of my students had previously registered for the Sonatina Festival, to be held in late March.  Needless to say, the Festival was cancelled.  Not so the preparation, the practice, and the polish on the sonatinas!  I created a Facebook page for my studio so these 4 kids could perform for all my other students.  Those other students who also learned sonatinas but were not ready for the Festival had extra time to practice and had the opportunity to record and post to Facebook.  I was happy for them!

In April, I presented to all of my students, young and old alike, a mixed media assignment.  I asked them to find on YouTube whatever piece they were currently practicing, to listen to it away from the printed page, and to draw what they hear.  The results were quite imaginative.  An 8-year-old playing Fur Elise saw great swaths of colors, representing love and rejection, anger and despair.  A middle-schooler playing Spindler's Tarantella drew intricate spider webs.  On Chopin Prelude in A Major, another middle schooler described it as  "the chance meetings of a single moment, and the simple pleasures of life."  Reinecke's Sonatina evoked visions of flowers.

May brought with it hopes of a Spring Recital, but with stay-at-home still in place, we had to find other avenues to performance.  Again, Serini Music Studio on Facebook  provided the stage.  Other teachers have collected recordings of their students recital pieces, pieced them together over Zoom and into formal YouTube worthy events.  I did not choose that route, not having confidence in the sound quality of Zoom to convey my students' artistry and not having the wherewithal to post to YouTube.  Facebook works for me.  In any event, the students have the option of playing over and over, posting only their best performance.  They don't have the anxiety that playing for a live audience can generate.  They don't receive the gratification of applause either.  The good, the bad, none of the ugly.

I'm still working out the kinks in my Zoom sessions.  I am fortunate to own 2 pianos; I moved my studio space to the piano nearer the modem.  I've figured out how to use the white board during a lesson.  I have downloaded theory games that I can share.  It has been a whirlwind, and I wish it never had to be, but I've learned a lot, my kids (and adults) have learned a lot.  We didn't need to isolate, just get computer friendly.  We all thought it would be 2 weeks of inconvenience.  More like 13 weeks and counting!  Although locally restaurants and businesses are beginning to reopen, I think I will stay in cyber-mode for a few more weeks at least.

1 comment:

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