Online lessons: are they worthwhile?

The reasons why I have enjoyed teaching online are as followed, but not limited to:
-Personal flexibility.
-Fewer limitations.
-Better health.
-Keeping up with technology.

I started working online a few years ago as a way to connect with students who had moved away or developed limitations within their schedule, and quickly realized it was actually a viable way to provide effective voice lessons. I appreciated that it allowed me to explore my own artistry while creating a calendar that takes into consideration my personal goals as well as the objectives of my students. I’ve since been able to move around the world and maintain the continuity of lessons for my learners with little to no interruptions!

Additionally, I can provide online lessons to students who otherwise would not have as easy access to a voice teacher, whether due to being a great distance away from the opportunity, having health conditions that might make it challenging to attend in-person classes, or having a lifestyle that makes consistent scheduling difficult. With a good internet connection and a computer, interested parties can connect with me at times that work with their availability and learn at their own pace. I find that many students end up preferring online connections due to the peace that working within their own home provides: no more does one need to feel self-conscious of their mistakes as the next student in line waits anxiously on the other side of a thin door! Today, my studio members can wear whatever clothes make them feel most comfortable, not feel pressured by the possibility of traffic or transportation breakdown, and feel more confident taking musical risks while in a space that is entirely of their own design.

While there are times that I miss working directly with students, I cannot say that feeling extends to “cold-and-flu season”. During my first years of teaching, I found myself getting sick often when I was teaching in person, which ultimately hindered my own singing career development. Essentially, if I lost my voice due to a little cold, I could be out of work for a while. Many of my students would comment that they did not feel particularly unwell, to which I would either have to request we reschedule, or sometimes they would simply show up without telling me they were feeling under the weather. Rather than making either party feel wary of one another, online meet-ups provided an opportunity to continue lessons without the risk of spreading disease. Now, I find myself healthier during times of higher transmission and also having better discussions about maintaining vocal health during sickness. My students can also choose to work on other aspects of musicianship if they are having a sore voice day so that they can foster more than just their love of singing and prevent adding insult to injury. Instead, we work on expanding topics such as music theory, songwriting, music history, stage presence, and much more.

Technology is always changing, and one critique I have of some parts of the classical music industry is that we often fear the prospect of technological innovation. If the new technique or tool is digital in nature, then we tend to shy away from it without attempting to implement it into our routine. I intend on working with the changing times rather than against them, and I recognize that it is in our best interest to learn where we as artists belong in this new world. By trying to lead by example, I push myself to learn new things too, like editing videos and interacting with an online community so as to encourage my students to take the same stance in their own development.

What do online lessons look like?
Many people are nervous about working remotely, but I want to motivate people to think about the comfort gained when they have control over both their own space and time.
Students are recommended to use familiar devices which provide them with a sense of confidence and test them beforehand to ensure reliable Wi-Fi, visual, and audio connections. Although computers are the most consistent in terms of quality, I have had people use phones and tablets in a pinch. If students prefer, they can even learn about connectable mics and cameras, but there is no pressure to go out of your way to make additional purchases. It’s possible to use anything that you have access to and have successful lessons!

It is also a good idea to preemptively reach out to your potential teacher before a lesson to ask about any specific requirements. I usually like to tell students to have an idea of their goals in mind, and bring a positive attitude! If your program provides the chance to open a demo room, you can privately check your sound and video before the meeting so you have a better understanding of what your system will be like in the moment.

Will I learn just as well as in-person lessons?
The simple answer: yes. I’ve been digitally collaborating with other great artists for years, and I’ve felt that it has allowed me a remarkable chance to grow from anywhere in the world. When online, you can work with your teacher to create a very personalized routine, and focus more intently on what you are truly interested in learning. We do exercises together on the piano and can sing nearly in perfect time with the help of new audio processing updates to programs such as Zoom. It is also possible to demonstrate different elements such as mouth shape and tongue position close to the camera so that students can see techniques very clearly, without it being nearly as uncomfortable as doing it in person. With a good connection, it ends up feeling like we are in the same room. If you have any questions about online lessons, or setting up a trial, feel free to reach out to me!