Insights: Learning Music in a Crisis

A presentation of Keep Calm and Play On, this series of panel discussions brings together PCM faculty, students, staff, and families, to share their experience around teaching and learning music during Covid-19.

Wednesday, July 1, moderated by PCM Advisory Council member Elisa Callow, PCM parents Nancy Elliott, Kiku Iwata, and Eric and Suzie Lee, gathered virtually to share their families’ experiences around learning music from home, the challenges of distance learning, and how they support their children’s music studies in this new environment.

A shared observation among the parents was the importance of instilling in their children a sense of accountability for their own learning. Recognizing it is key for parents to stay active and supportive throughout the process, they shared the belief that the greatest success of learning an instrument, or any craft or skill, comes from one’s own motivation to self-educate. Ultimately, education becomes a self-generating reward through which the more progress students make, the greater the motivation to practice and master their instrument.

There was also a deep appreciation for the dedication of PCM teachers and their efforts to adapt teaching methods in response to these challenging times. Admittedly, there are difficulties of learning music virtually – tone quality and subtleties in interpretation are lost in transmission. However, teachers and students have been able to find “workarounds” for their weekly lessons. For example, some teachers have had students record themselves playing scales, etudes, and pieces from home (this is better quality than Zoom), which they will discuss at their weekly lesson.

Kiku and Nancy also highlighted some student collaborations that have taken place. Here are those videos for your viewing enjoyment:

A few key takeaways from the webinar:

  • Parent communication with teachers is key and much more fluid than before Covid-19
  • Social connection is an important aspect of music-making and teachers are finding ways for students to stay connected with one another virtually (e.g. key signature bingo and practice dates)
  • This time has also presented an opportunity for students to develop their “ear” both musically and analytically.

Nancy pointed out that “creativity comes from constraint,” which aptly describes how we have seen our PCM community – students, parents, faculty, and staff – adapt to ongoing challenges. Even though life as we know it has been turned upside down, our community has demonstrated its resiliency and determination to learn, perform, and enjoy music, no matter the environment.

Stay tuned for more webinars like this one!