The Success of Online Learning

As the pandemic necessitated online learning, I was at first very concerned that it might be inferior to in-person learning.  With the help of my students who were more tech-savvy than I, we overcame some initial challenges and learning seemed to be moving along well. 

Groups were especially challenging until a student came up with an idea for a segment called “compliments and suggestions.”  Students would play the piece they were currently working on and then each person in the group would give a brief compliment and a suggestion for how to make the piece even better (if they had one).  Students really loved this!  They were contributing with their comments as well as playing the violin.  We stressed that this was not a criticism.  It was a way to encourage successful work and help if there was a way to make the student even better.  Its intention was to support and build up, not to criticize and or tear down.  I began to have students asking “when is group” or “why don’t we have group this week?”

Another interesting thing with online group learning was that when students had successfully learned a piece they could find accompaniments online and play with an accompanist or symphony if their piece happened to be a concerto.  This was interesting and fun and led to some challenging decisions about tempo – often bringing students to concert tempo without struggles.

The frosting on the cake was the success students were having in the outside world.  A graduating senior in that first year of Covid – who was wanting to major in Music – was accepted at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), her school of choice. She then successfully auditioned for and joined the VCU Symphony in her freshman year.  An 8th grader moving into her High School Orchestra served as Principal Second upon her arrival.  Another student that year, then a high school freshman, auditioned for two orchestras and became Assistant Concertmaster. Obviously, our new online learning approach was not slowing down any of our Barrett Suzuki students!

In 2021, our graduating senior was Concertmaster of the Loudoun Symphony Youth Orchestra and auditioned into the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra.  Their Concertmaster, a professor at UVA, invited him to join his Studio at UVA and found a 50% scholarship for his lessons from the Symphony.  Another student – a high school sophomore – is serving on a rotating basis as Chamber concertmaster and principal 2nd violin at his high school.  As a freshman, he had declined to audition for Chamber to stay with buddies in orchestra and got instantly moved into Chamber when the Orchestra Conductor heard him play.

Not a bad record overall I would say.  This has convinced me that online learning can be very successful if handled properly, the Barrett Suzuki way, and hence I do not hesitate to continue with our very successful online learning programs.