As music institutions throughout the United States closed their doors to in-person music education in late March, the Des Moines Symphony Academy joined many schools in offering online instruction. Through a variety of video communication platforms, Symphony Academy Faculty interacted with their students in real-time to ensure everyone stayed safe and healthy. With remote lessons, the Symphony Academy continued lessons throughout the remainder of the school year and into the summer per usual. Private trumpet lesson teacher Christian Baughman was surprised at how well the attendance rate kept up in his studio over the summer. In general, students cancel lessons or tend to stop lessons during the summer due to schedule conflicts. But with the help of online lessons, and fewer summer commitments, scheduling became easier. Overall, Symphony Academy Faculty feel students value their lessons more now, as it is a source of consistency in their changing environment.

Symphony Academy Faculty are always looking for ways to grow as teachers, and online instruction has allowed them to do so. Violin teacher Mary Pshonik said she has learned to communicate her thoughts more effectively. Demonstrating a technique to students is an essential part of in-person lessons, and without being able to do so, Mary had to get her point across in other ways. "I'm so fortunate that my students are wonderfully self-motivated, bright people who make progress each week," she says. Her youngest student is nine years old and has learned thumb position, tenor clef, and the Prelude to the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 since online lessons started. Anne Stein, flute, voice, and piano instructor, has found herself giving much more encouragement to her students. The support does not stop in lessons and carries into daily life in this time of uncertainty.

As with any new teaching method, there were glitches. Connectivity issues were, and continue to be, an issue. At the beginning of remote lessons, connectivity issues disrupted a lesson. Now we are all used to it and just say; I didn't catch that last thing you said or played, can you repeat that? Christian likes that phrase a lot because it is a non-evaluative statement that gives everyone freedom for a do-over. It does not critique the student and provides a learning opportunity as they can think about what they did and fix it themselves. Another challenge, unrelated to technology, is flimsy music stands. It is difficult to markup music on a wire-folding stand and it sometimes disrupts a lesson when there is a stand malfunction.

Some faculty were surprised at how much they enjoyed online instruction. Madina Akhatova, who teaches private violin lessons and Beginning Strings Group Classes, said, "I'm such a 'hands-on' teacher that the thought of teaching online seemed impossible." However, online lessons exceeded her expectations. Madina was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked and how much her students continued to grow. Now that the Symphony Academy has successfully held online instruction for four months, Faculty are ready to begin the 2020-2021 school year fully prepared and equipped for remote lessons.

Now more than ever, Symphony Academy Faculty feel the importance of their role in students' lives. With uncertainty in what school will look like in the fall, the Des Moines Symphony Academy offers a familiar routine and encouraging presence to help students face all online learning challenges in private and group lessons, schooling, and otherwise. Our "digital" doors are open and ready for new and returning students this school year. Click here to register you or your child today.

"Music contributes to mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health, which makes it invaluable in our present reality."

Anne Stein, flute, voice, piano instructor