Hello, Face-To-Face Lessons (It's Been A While)

Like most peripatetic music tutors, I've been teaching via video since March 2020. Last Monday, I had my first face-to-face lesson in 15 months. It felt surreal to say the least.

DIGITAL LIFE


Over the past 15 months, aside from going out for shopping or for a walk, I can probably count on my hands the amount of times I've been out in social situations, whether it's to a show, a party, or just to hang out with friends.


Teaching has all been done online via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or on a teaching website in some cases, all from the comfort of my own home. If, like on an iPhone, I were to look at the amount of screen time I've had compared to any past year, I'm sure I would see that I've spent a lot more time on a computer, or any screen for that matter, than I've ever done before (and I'm a gamer). For a lot of people, regardless of their job, I imagine their lives have been quite similar and they've come to the same conclusion.


Teaching online has meant I've saved a lot of money on travel and rent costs, and has freed up a lot of time during the day which can be offered to more students. I'll admit, however, that being based at home made me a little apprehensive about going back to the routine I had before the pandemic, where I travelled to Bristol two times a week to teach in a studio and the rest of the week had students coming to me for lessons at home. The good news is that the majority of my students prefer to keep lessons online as they too are saving money and time. This means I no longer have to travel to Bristol, which is just as well since I've recently moved further away.


THE NEED FOR FACE-TO-FACE


While video lessons have been quite hitch-free, with the occasional internet problem few and far between, as mentioned in previous blogs, I have noticed a few things that online lessons make a bit challenging. Having certain registers and volumes of notes distort or quieten; students getting confused on where they're supposed to be going from in the music; or having bad fingering habits that are difficult to spot when I'm having to remind the student to stand further back so I can see the instrument. Issues like these really make one appreciate face-to-face lessons, and I've noticed that most problems online happen when the student is a beginner and/or a young person.


So, when I was contacted about beginner saxophone lessons for a ten-year-old a few weeks ago, I knew that my all-online streak was coming to an end. While the parent was happy for their child to do online lessons if that's what I felt comfortable with, I thought it would be unfair to ask that of them. While all my young students have fared quite well with their progress over the past 15 months, the few new students I've had, who were adults, struggled to get to grips with the instrument and would get frustrated quickly. Knowing that it could potentially be worse with a child learner, I said I was happy to do face-to-face; I'd had my first jab anyway so I was comfortable.


PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT


It was a 30-minute lesson in which, because of the wet weather, the whole family watched on (mum, brother, and sister) while the enthusiastic student learned to fit the instrument together and produce a few notes. It felt surreal to not only have an audience in a fairly small living room but the 30 minutes went slowly and yet quickly at the same time. Once finished, I felt like it went well; he was happy and couldn't wait to have another lesson but I could tell I felt a little rusty.


With no one else having face-to-face lessons at the moment, I was worried that the second lesson would feel similar but I felt much more comfortable this time and I was pleased to see the progress he'd made in a week. I can see that choosing not to do video lessons was the right choice as the ease of using visual cues to help explain how to play helps a lot, and I'm sure this level of enthusiasm I'm seeing wouldn't happen as much online.


Having now had my first face-to-face student in 15 months, I feel more comfortable about doing more lessons this way again. Disinfecting afterwards doesn't take too much time and making sure there's plenty of ventilation is easy to do. If everyone decided to go back to face-to-face, I'll admit, I'd feel disappointed that there would be no more video lessons but, with this new balance between the two, I'm very much looking forward to the future.


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