Difficult times force the artists to reinvent and be creative, finding new ways to connect to the audiences.
On June 24th we completed 3 months in social isolation. Unfortunately, rehearsals, concerts and tours were cancelled, but we discovered many positive aspects of the situation: presencial lessons were transformed into online lessons with a very good quality and experience for the students. After 13 weeks of social isolation we can share what we learned from this situation, and everything we are doing in order to continue to making music together, and strengthening the recorder community.
Before the pandemics, we already had online students, some of them in other countries such as Australia and Belgium, and some living in different and far regions in Brazil (that has 4394km north/south and 4319km east/west, something huge when compared to any European country). The previously experience gathered with the online students had a great value, since we had almost no trouble to do the required change into online lessons.
We teach through the Mother Tongue Method, also known as the Suzuki Method. We choose the Suzuki Method because we believe that everybody can learn to play in a high level when they understand and learn music as a new language. This is a very important aspect of our lessons, which makes possible to have a great satisfaction and feeling of progression on studying music, to create engagement and sense of community, and to develop a beautiful sound from the beginning. These values that are very important on Suzuki method is being also very important on keeping online lessons with quarantined people.
At Suzuki Center of Music Education we work together with teachers of many instruments such as violin, guitar, piano, voice and others, all of us teaching through the Suzuki Method, where we have 1 individual and 1 group lesson per week. Once the quarantine began, we changed all the individual lessons into online lessons without a trouble, but we needed to rethink about group lessons format. We developed (and keep improving) new strategies and activities for the online group lessons according to the Suzuki group lessons principles:
1 – reinforce skills learned on the individual lessons
One student play to the colleagues, and each listening student share a very specific positive comment about the performance. After everyone commented, we as teachers comment something special and something to improve.
2 – review the repertoire focusing on new skills development and on performance preparation
We turn off the audio of the students, and we play a music for the student, that one can play together. The parents, always watching the class, record the student performance by video, and send it to us after the class.
3 – nurture community
We often invite a teacher from abroad to participate, and our students are also often invited to participate in different activities organized by other recorder teachers. We had the participation of Paul Leenhouts in our group lessons, many students participated in the Global Community Recorder Orchestra project organized by Sarah Cantor, and also in many online recitals organized by the Suzuki community all over the world.
4 – develop ensemble skills (chamber music)
This is the most tricky issue, because of the latency on online video calls. So we are doing it offline, where each student record an ensemble part alone, and we put all of them together editing the video.
Regarding the tools we use, we are using Zoom for online lessons because this app gives the best audio and video when compared with other apps available, such as Google Meet, Skype, Messenger, Jitsi and others. It also has many useful functions, such as original sound, virtual background, chat, scheduling, secondary rooms, recording, live transmissions on youtube and facebook, and more. We also use other apps together with zoom, such as SnapCamera and OBS Studio, where we can add special effects to the lessons.
Sometimes we follow up the student’s practice by WhatsApp, where the student record an audio or video file and we give specific instructions before the next class.
Besides the online group and individual lessons, we gather together with other three music teachers in order to have ideas on the best use of meeting apps for online classes, to test and improve the equipment for audio and video calls, and new strategies to improve the quality of the lessons, not just technical quality, but also, the pedagogy involved.
So, together with these other teachers, we offered two webinars where we shared teaching strategies and technical issues with more than 500 music teachers and enthusiasts. More are coming soon. The webinars are in Portuguese, and you can put auto-subtitles and translate it in the options:
All of this for what? Of course, we do all of this for the sake of students. Many people are feeling as they were in warfare fighting with an invisible enemy, or just feeling very lonely because of the forced quarantine, and in any case it has serious consequences in one’s mind. The music lesson is the time of the week that the student can make music, to enjoy beauty, to have fun with friends, to learn and to develop new skills; all of this does a great influence in the students welfare.
Despite the challenges, we faced the situation reinventing the lessons in order to keep its quality. Students have now a new learning experience, and some strategies using technology will last after the quarantine is gone.
At Suzuki Center of Music Education Gustavo teaches the adult students and Renata teaches the kids and teenagers. Our work is based in the character development through music, and in difficult times such as we are now, the students are experiencing what music language can do in our emotional brain. For those students, music has become the one constant thing in their new normal, and they are feeling that music transports us to a world of our own, and it makes us to scape a horrible situation and helps us to face it!
Gustavo de Francisco and Renata Pereira are recorder players at Quinta Essentia Quartet, and also teachers at Suzuki Center of Music Education in São Paulo.
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