Learning Instruments Online II

[From iayo.ie]

IAYO’s collaboration with Music Generations in Carlow and Laois along with the Carlow College of Music and the Laois School of Music have been progressing well since last we brought news of it.

In December’s Newsnotes we recounted how teaching of the students and the student-teachers had happened mostly in person with Eimear Saunders, who is the specialist oboe teacher and is co-ordinating the pilot. At that time, Eimear was setting up and preparing for going online with lessons, both with the student-teachers and the young students. Setting up Skype is easy enough but Eimear had also to set up a recording facility so that all lessons are recorded for child protection purposes and a schedule for transferring those to the School / College for safekeeping and archiving was needed. IAYO, consulting with the National Youth Council of Ireland and others wrote up a specific policy and set of information sheets and permission sheets for the students, their parents and the teachers so that everyone knew their roles and responsibilities and things that could possibly go wrong. (On investigation, there were quite a lot of things to consider in having a teacher virtually in students’ homes.)

Having been through the setup phase, the teaching is now going well on a three-week cycle. Eimear is present in person on the first week to give lessons to the students (younger and older), She gives an internet lesson on week two and the local teachers give a lesson to the young students on week three. Again, there is a lot to consider as Eimear and the local teachers are acting in two different relationships with each other. In one, they are teacher and student and in the other, they are colleagues, one of whom is a specialist on the instrument but being on an equal level regarding musicianship and teaching skills. They need to have a good relationship on both levels in order for the teaching of the young students to progress well.
Discussing this, we have come to the conclusion that, in such a model, it might be a good idea for the local teachers to take up the oboe a full year before they enter into the phase where they are both learning and teaching / supervising at the same time. It allows an appreciable time for them to become comfortable with the instrument and place themselves at a significant degree of proficiency beyond those that they will be teaching.

The teaching of a teacher can be done primarily over the internet with, consequently, very little need for travel as someone who is already at a high standard in one instrument will automatically register if they are having a technical, as opposed to musical, difficulty and will be able to judge if and when there is a need for some hands-on contact while they are learning. There is also a great opportunity for the local teachers involved in developing their own practice locally by adding another instrument to their teaching abilities in such a supported manner. A potential spin-off benefit for the locality is that now there will be an adult oboe player for amateur ensembles where there was none before.

The lessons over the internet are going well and Eimear reports that excellent progress is being made in the online sessions – often even more than being actually there because there is less ‘getting into the room, having a chat, checking over the instrument etc.’ These things are all necessary, of course, but not necessarily every week. The online lessons are definitely productive with the older students (teenagers) than the younger ones, but the lessons with the younger ages are also working well, as are those with the teachers. There is a possibility that the online lessons might be shorter than the in-person ones where this kind of teaching is on a regular basis, thus cutting down on overall hours worked and the cost of the programme, which, under this model, is going to be more expensive than a local teacher and a local student. However, over the longer term, as the balance of student contact shifts more for the specialist teacher to the local teacher, the cost will reduce.

There is also a benefit of flexibility in the timing of online lessons for both the students and teacher and it is possible to check in more regularly on a particular aspect of technique or learning. Such flexibility, it must be said, can be as much of a pain as a gain but, once it is managed well, can enhance the progress of the students and fit well with the other activities that most music teachers have in their professional lives.

The every-third-week of teaching of the young students by the local student-teachers is also working well. They are, at present, working almost exclusively on musicianship and musicality but, as this is a large part of the working relationship between teachers and students, it is appropriate and no problems of any sort have been experienced thus far. The students are all progressing well technically and the combination of in-person and online teaching from Eimear is enough to give them a solid basis for their musical progress. A new student has just joined the programme in Carlow and, to our happy surprise, is someone that had decided they wanted to learn the oboe and had gone looking for a way of achieving this without travelling to Dublin weekly when they discovered the programme running at the Carlow College of Music.

Read Part III.

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