Online Teaching

Had I been asked, prior to April 2020, about my position on online teaching, I would have said that “while I can and do teach online, the best way to teach a student is face-to-face.” This, I believe unequivocally. However, had you told me by the end of April that I would not only teach online for months to come – but that my students would exceed all expectations and progress in remarkable ways – I would not have believed you!

And here we are, making the most of the challenging situation with polished, “Excellent” and “Superior” performances of Bach and Mozart, Chopin, and Joplin. Our students participated (virtually) at the Sonata Festival of the Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association (NVMTA), and all of them got a good grade; most of them, in fact, received Excellent evaluations. That was May 2020. Six months later, in November, they all received Excellent and Superior ratings for their recorded performances sent to the NVMTA Fall Festival.

How did we do it? Five secrets:

First and foremost, it’s our students’ commitment! I am blessed with a small studio of selected students who love to practice. They love classical music – they tell me it’s “cool, fun” because they are exposed to it by their peers in our Group Lessons. In the Seter Studio, they receive their performative and conceptual foundations, which gradually enable them to play anything they wish to play on the piano – and they do so, playing their favorite songs, their improvisations, or compose their own compositions

Second, during these COVID months, our students have practiced more than before. The absence of distractions and diversions kept them on point. Consequently, they put much of themselves in their playing – and make more progress.

Third, I added more Group Lessons on Zoom, as supplements to our private lessons. These extra Group Lessons – once, or sometimes twice a month, every single month of the year – are studio favorites: they allow the students to reconnect with each other, to hear their peers’ progress, to learn new concepts of theory, and to work collectively on our ear-training.

Fourth, in addition to our Zoom Summer Recital, we also made a Recording Recital, where our students worked to polish their works, shared them with their peers on a Google Drive, and provided constructive comments to each other.

Fifth, I happily transformed my teaching style to meet the challenges of the new medium. After all, it’s all about the students, not me: I’ve learned from them how to reach their minds, and fulfill their wishes and aspirations, how to work with them. In a sense, the learning process has been “bidirectional,” and this has helped our studio remain both relevant and “fun and cool” for them – a for me, too.