The global pandemic has made all instrumental teachers drastically rethink the ways in which they can deliver high-quality, engaging teaching. In the Diocese of Leeds, we had to respond quickly to the enforced lockdown and consequent closure of schools: how could the many children within our Organists’ Training Programme remain engaged, focussed and musically stimulated?
Spurred by the quick transition of our after-school choirs into online sessions, the instrumental teaching followed suit, with keyboard lessons moving online through Google Meet. This fantastic platform has allowed for a streamlined move from ‘live’ lessons to those where tutor and pupil are both at home. Pupils have reacted impressively to this new style of lessons, with great focus and engagement. One of the many benefits we’ve found has been the ability to share performances through the chat function, for example sending recommended YouTube performances to inspire the children. It has also been possible to share online scores – an unexpected advantage over ‘normal’ lessons – which has been a wonderful way of signposting pupils to new repertoire to explore.
We now have an impressive array of keyboard instruments being taught weekly, with our four tutors covering organ, piano and accordion lessons. In addition to work on pieces, pupils have been encouraged to work on supporting keyboard skills, such as sight-reading, score-reading and transposition. Furthermore, we’ve been offering aural training, which has been invaluable for supporting those children who were meant to take their Associated Board grade exams recently.
How does this set us up for the coming months? Rather than viewing the lockdown as an obstacle to our teaching, Diocese of Leeds Music has embraced the technological opportunities that are available to us, and we’re constantly striving to find new ways to encourage and motivate our pupils. One of our partner organisations, the Royal College of Organists, has made its online tuition material available for free, and this has allowed our pupils to watch videos on subjects ranging from effective practice techniques through to theatre organ playing!
‘The online instrumental teaching Mr Pipe has provided my 11-year-old daughter through this period of lockdown has been invaluable. The half-hour weekly lessons have ensured that she continues to develop and learn even though she is not attending school. Working at home on the piano rather than an organ has not been a barrier to her progress. Mr Pipe has found ways to exchange music and ensure she hits the ground running at the start of each lesson. The fast-paced, fun online teaching has ensured that my daughter remains committed, enthusiastic and focused from week to week. Mr Pipe has continued to impart his vast knowledge, expertise and passion, bringing music and the organ to life at home.’
‘Due to your efforts, the boys are still able to continue to enjoy, not only the lessons, but also to keep in contact with the world outside…these little arrangements enabled our children to keep their lives into perspective with a sense of normality, during these hard times. At the moment, we have four music sessions every week including the Boys’/Girls’ Choirs and instrumental lessons…This is such a welcoming break for them during this period and they look forward to seeing you and their friends every week. This is such a great blessing to us all, as a family.’
Written by: David Pipe, Director of the Organists’ Training Programme, Diocese of Leeds Music