Skype Lessons
A Teacher's Perspective  
by Anne Timberlake 

It's Friday morning at 8:00 AM.  I have fuzzy slippers, a cup of coffee, and my laptop, from which I'm dialing up my student in Hong Kong.  She answers the video chat call on the second ring.

"Good evening!"  I say.

"Good morning!" she returns.  We check in on her assignments, chat about articulation and rhythm, find a title for a piece she's composed herself, and discuss how to bring a rigaudon to life.  After half an hour, we say goodbye.

When I was envisioning my recorder teaching life, this was not what I pictured.  I foresaw doorbells and umbrellas, music on music stands, students whose hands I could shake - and shape.

I didn't picture the laptop. But that's what I've got.

I've been teaching online for five years now. There's an art to it, and it's been both challenging and rewarding to develop my skills in this new teaching arena.  I've been learning alongside my students - and five years in, I've got no plans to stop.

There are most definitely disadvantages.  I cannot say I would ever recommend online lessons to a student living within reasonable driving distance of a quality instructor, unless that student was unable to drive or wished to learn about something very specific.  There is simply no substitute for sitting in a room with a real-life teacher, a teacher who walk around your chair, listen to your sound, try out your instrument, and look you directly in the eye.

And that's not even counting the single greatest disadvantage of online lessons, which is that teacher and student cannot play simultaneously. Making music with a student is one of the best ways of supporting that student in his or her musical development, and thanks to a slight delay in data transmission online, that avenue of learning is blocked.  I've been diligent about developing ways to compensate, but there is really no substitute.

On the other hand, the convenience of the format is unparalleled.   I have students who work full-time and otherwise wouldn't have made time for lessons, students who live in various remote corners of our continent, students who live hundreds of miles from the nearest recorder teacher but want to improve their skills.

Recorder teacher, professional and ARS Board member Anne Timberlake
And I'm happy to meet them, wherever they are, and walk alongside them for however long they choose to continue their musical journeys with me.  Online lessons are not as good as in-person lessons, but they are a whole lot better, in my opinion, than no lessons at all.  A good teacher can not only shepherd your learning, but deepen your joy in music.

It's what I strive to do at every lesson, even from the other side of the world.

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