There’s no doubt that people are going about their lives differently now. Despite the challenging circumstances, we’ve been impressed by the creativity of music teachers who have taken their private lessons, and even group rehearsals (!), digital. We’d like to highlight a few that we know here:
UpBeat — Arizona Arts in Schools (The University of Arizona)
UpBeat is a percussion and music literacy education program in Tucson, Arizona, that brings accomplished percussion instructors into the classrooms of nearby schools. The program is free, and it serves schools where 80-100% of students qualify for free or reduced meals.
Normally, UpBeat is an in-person learning experience, where an instrumentalist gives group instruction in coordination with a certified arts teacher. They’ve since moved online. To keep the learning going, students now have digital access to UpBeat’s original method books, aided by drive-in WiFi hotspots. The etudes from the method book are presented with Soundslice so that students can practice at home along with a recording of their teacher. (How cool!)
In place of their normal end-of-the-year showcase concert, students are encouraged to submit performances of themselves practicing along with their Soundslice recordings. Those clips will then be edited together for a virtual showcase concert.
Holly Holmes, the assistant director of UpBeat’s parent organization, Arizona Arts in Schools, says “Soundslice has been pivotal to help us transform our outreach programs into distance-learning resources.”
The People’s Music School — Chicago, IL
The People’s Music School is an institution from our hometown that brings instrumental music education into schools with underserved arts programs. Through their program, students ages 5-18 engage in hours of weekly musical instruction in the form of private lessons, music theory classes and full orchestral rehearsals. This instruction is led by a staff of highly-trained musicians and educators who travel to partner schools and also teach in their own practice-room-equipped building in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. The program is 100% free to students and participating schools.
Embracing the new normal of stay-at-home, People’s Music has moved their in-person private lessons and even group rehearsals online. Thanks to a dedicated staff, they’ve aggressively digitized over 250 etudes and pieces into Soundslice, so that teachers and students have the resources they need. Instructor Felipe Tobar told us how he uses a clever combination of video conferencing software and Soundslice to run his group rehearsals.
While an ensemble meets over Zoom, Felipe shares his screen of a Soundslice score so that everyone can view the same music at the same time. He then leads the group through the music — muting the other performers so that they can hear and play along with him. This means students get to rehearse a piece of music together, and they spend the most possible time playing their instruments.
During these rehearsals, Felipe uses the Soundslice notation editor to make annotations — like bowing and dynamics — on the fly for all students to see. (Genius!) When asked to elaborate on the “Why?” of running group lessons despite the obvious logistical issues, Felipe didn’t blink to suggest that the trouble was worth it.
“Even in a real-world rehearsal situation, when musicians are asked to play solo, it’s easy for them to shrink. But when they play in a group, they are empowered. This is even true digitally — the act of us all playing together is powerful and encouraging. It’s also important that students spend as much time as possible with their instruments in hand, actually playing. These remote group rehearsals accomplish that.”
People’s Music is learning, and from what we see, leading the way in establishing what president and artistic director Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa referred to as the “new rituals” of our arts and communal lives. In just that spirit, they’re planning a virtual concert for this summer. Students will submit recordings of themselves performing “Ode to Joy” along with their Soundslice sheet music (to keep everyone in tempo!), which will be edited together for a virtual concert for friends, family and community.
Forest Wilson — Anchorage, AK
Forest Wilson is a private lesson instructor in Anchorage, Alaska. He normally teaches out of an in-person studio, which has since moved online. He was kind enough to tell us about how he’s been conducting his remote lessons and using Soundslice in the process.
“I teach about 30-40 lessons a week from my own independent studio, and during the pandemic, I’ve had to teach all of my lessons online via Zoom or Skype. Soundslice has been great as I can pull up assignments on a shared screen during these socially distanced times. Even some of my less tech-savvy students have found it easy to learn from, and of course young kids love it because it’s almost a way to gamify their assignments.
“I’ve only been using Soundslice for a couple of weeks…but I’ve already gotten great feedback from students. The tablature functions are very nuanced, so I’m able to convey all the little slurs and intricacies of a piece to a student. When you couple that with a loopable, video performance with adjustable tempo, students have everything at their disposal to really master songs…maybe even more so than before.”
Here’s an example of the kinds of slices Forest has been creating for his students to study remotely. Since he was so kind with his words about us, we won’t hesitate to add a personal note that we are really impressed by his playing! :)
[Forest’s arrangement of “Red Prairie Dawn” by Garry Harrison.]
Are you a teacher using Soundslice for distance learning?
Please reach out to us. We’d love to hear about what you’re doing, and we’ll offer any assistance we can.
Update May 28, 2020: Read about more teachers in our follow up to this story.