With the pandemic coming to an end in most parts of the world (knocks on wood), everyone's asking if online education is here to stay.
Now while the intricacies of education are infinite, how do you figure out if this is relevant to you?
As someone who runs an online music-coaching business and just finished an online master's degree in music, here are some experiences I found helpful that I wanted to share with you.
This is the buzzword a lot of pro-online-education folks keep banging on about.
Um, count me in.
Before I got to be mentored by a PRS-Award-winning musician signed to Ninja Tune (who also happens to have a Doctorate in Physics!) for my post-graduate studies all online, I'd also studied with internationally renowned bassist and composer Kai Eckhardt.
This was a game changer. I was fresh out of college and traumatized by the red tape of institutionalized education. And those 5 years were a healing experience. To date, the concepts I've worked on with Kai are an inherent part of my musical approaches and everyday life.
The entire program was online, albeit a bit old-fashioned by today's standards (although Kai has since updated his online academy). Most of it was just emails, assignments, and a log that he would check in on to check my progress.
This example is particularly helpful in understanding the value of accessibility.
Why? Cos I'd been following Kai's work since I was a teen growing up in India, waiting for my modem for minutes to upload a 5-minute demo for that tiny spark of inspiration (yes kids, the internet wasn't always instant karma).
So when I found out studying with him personally was an actual option a rough decade later, I was ecstatic.
A similar case is Phil Maturano, (one of online Education's oldest warriors) who I'd had the chance to meet at the Rigas Ritmi Jazz Festival in 2002 as a student artist representing my college.
I just completed two years of drums study with him on his membership site (just FYI, I don't consider myself a drummer, this was more of rhythm studies for me as a composer/producer).
So yeah, that sort of access to world-class artists/educators is something online education just changed forever. You could live anywhere in the world, that does not stop you from studying with people you want to study with.
We all want a safe and nurturing environment to grow in.
But not all of us are privileged enough to grow up or inhabit creatively inspiring or nurturing parts of the world.
As a Third Culture Kid, I grew up on 4 countries and 3 continents. Not all of them were necessarily supportive of my artistic goals. At the time, I would have killed to have a constant environment that gave me a space to develop my skills at my own pace amidst like-minded people.
Sure, ideally I'd be doing this at rehearsal rooms and cafes hanging hard old-school style. But the recent years have been ample proof that having a support system, even if only online, is a legit vehicle to use on our journey (did I mention I just finished an online Masters's Degree at the London College of Music?).
The people I have met through some of these online communities have gone on to be meaningful relationships, not just random floating heads.
Moreover, after three years of teaching/coaching online, I can even go as far as to say that not only do my students and clients benefit from the time we work together, some of those who I knew from earlier in-person encounters actually improved drastically. Including a young student who struggled with ADHD.
This tends to come as a surprise to some, but online teaching can actually make us more disciplined.
The clarity of lesson-timings, seamless booking and rescheduling through apps like tidycal, and a student account like the one I offer at the Holistic Musician Academy for example, provide a clear overview of your lesson schedule and content.
On the accounting side (banal but important), there are never doubts about the occurrence of lessons. It's always on the record, which helps build a subconscious sense of peace and relaxed confidence as well.
So no more ''hey did I pay for a lesson that never happened?''.
4. Teaching Material
At most online academies you can visit your account anytime on your laptop or an app when you need to get a feel for the bigger picture of the material you're working on.
Most importantly, there's lesser room for fluff!
This helps make sure you and your mentor/coach are working on material that is relevant to your musical journey. In my student's case, for example, I upload video recordings, sheet music, links, and customized assignments within 48 hours (latest) of each lesson. Always in context to our last session, complete with a date and title. This means the student has a customized library of material they have constant access to.
As someone who's taught at conservatories for over 15 years, I can tell you this was a challenge I would struggle with so often with my students earlier. Sure, a notebook/journal would help, but it's only a partial representation, and in an age of information overload, knowing that you have access to relevant material immediately is a big help.
Additionally, if you have follow-up questions, ask your mentor on a thread or discussion, or just plain good ol' email.
One of the biggest differences I noticed when making the switch to online lessons was the sense of additional safety and security my students seemed to feel. They were at home or in their studios/workspaces, free of any commute stress, and were just immediately focused and more relaxed.
While any good teacher will hopefully take the initial few minutes to warm-up not just at your instrument but also let the vibes roll, a primary difference I notice with online sessions is the additional sense of confidence and control students have instantly.
The result? Less time wasted over niceties.
(Not saying we shouldn't be nice, just to be clear-in fact, if anything, etiquette and good manners are a non-negotiable, online or offline!).
I have a 20 year plus career as a teacher behind me at this point. And I'll confess, I'm partial towards the possibilities online education gives us. Both as a student who gets to study with people he'd have had to take a flight to meet under normal circumstances, and a professional artist who doesn't have to worry about rushing back to a specific location exhausted from touring just so he can make it to class on time.
For those who aren't particularly fond of tech or are stressed with screen time, some days a good ol piano or jam sesh in person would be just what the doctor ordered. I'll be transparent with that. But in most cases, you'll want to take away as much as you can from the lesson. And even if you don't feel like you're giving your best, you can always go back to the recordings and revise and refine on your own time.
I'd like to think online education is here to stay. That being said, I also know nothing beats being in the room for particular niches like band coaching. (Here's a band I coached for a year).
But then again, nobody said any solution was perfect. In an ideal world, we'd be doing both and fine-tuning the balance just like that final mixdown of our latest single at the studio.
Until then, this is your friendly neighborhood online music-mentor T.L. signing out and wishing you all the very best on your musical journey.
About T.L. Mazumdar
EveryNowHere aka T.L. Mazumdar has been nominated for national awards and called ''...a major talent'' by the likes of Jack Douglas (Producer: John Lennon, Miles Davis, etc.).
A quintessential Third Culture Kid and nomad, his current body of work as EveryNowHere collectively titled 'Re_Movement' celebrates the acceptance of a blur of constantly changing backdrops as a home and the shedding of socio-cultural baggage to reveal stories closer to the truth of the human condition and it's journey on planet earth.