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5 months of teaching Music online

Here it goes. Month by month, and also, the future.

March 2020

The lockdown happened. The gloom of the virus was real. People were scared to come to classes. I was scared to take classes anywhere. The fee for the month was already paid by most. We were halfway through the month. I could not abandon the classes, nor could I refund at a moment's notice. The remaining classes were made mandatory for students to attend online, only for the month of March. April onwards, the decision was entirely theirs, rightly so. I had WhatsApp video, an earphone, and a whiteboard. The experiments were on. A new form of music education was to be born.

April 2020

There were no compulsions to learn music online in April. Arvi School of Music and Fine Arts lost 28% of its students. Expenses were cut by 90%. Survival mode kicked in. But, there was something about the numbers. Students who have learned for more than 6 months from me, stayed. All of them did. They braced technology. They stood strong through change. They supported their teacher in any way they could. They learned music. They excelled. I was in awe, maybe even inspired.

How can I take group classes online? A challenge. I moved to individual classes. The workload increased 4x. Didn't seem fair. But, others have had it worse. My life was thrown out of my usual gear of music for myself and my simple personal life. I started getting into a routine. Never has this happened in the past 4 years. Every day used to be fresh. I had no clue what the day would be. Not anymore. I now had a routine.

Yet, compassion for the world grew manifold during the said times. Arvi Music did its best to pitch in during this pandemic to help the most vulnerable. People, Animals, and teachers benefited from a corpus of over INR 60,000 put from my savings and generous donations from the Arvi School of Music and Fine Arts, Arvi Collective, and my own family. If we lose the humanity in us, we lose everything.

June 2020

New schedules were drawn up. The pandemic was here to stay. I have taught music, online for students outside India for years before 2020. It was time to use all of that experience, and more. The equipment from Arvi Music Studio and Recording Arts remained unused as the film works were nowhere in sight. It was time to integrate a Music studio with Online Music Education. That was a revolution waiting to happen.

The results? Zoom, studio microphones, e-books, audio routing, phones as webcams, virtual whiteboard, electric guitar, mixers, pedalboards, and inspiration from those much younger. The quality of the classes skyrocketed (Not my words). More music and more learning. The knowledge was shared with other teachers in hopes that it would help them. It did. There were no music exams in-sight for our students. All the music examination boards faced logistical and technological shortcomings. This meant, no music exams for some time. Hence, fun times were on. We did songs, compositions, songwriting, and interactive projects such as this one. Students joined back when they heard that the online model was a success. New students joined in by word of mouth. Admissions were closed due to high demand.

July 2020

Again, the numbers. 70% of the Students were learning better online! I was amazed. I did not know that to be possible. It was time to revolutionize Music education for good.

New syllabus, new song lists, new inspirations, contemporary styles, and original content creation, took center stage. Berklee College of Music would have been proud of all the updates in the current syllabus. A new "Vision and Mission" was drawn out for Arvi Music Pvt. Ltd. Strong dreams were floated around. I had to reinvent myself as a teacher, as a person, and as an entrepreneur.

August 2020

Schedules were perfected. Students from all over the world have now become part of our family. International collaboration with happened and is now running successfully. The support from the parents and the students remains strong. Not a crack in the trust they had in me. That is what kept me going. Never have I worked this hard in my life. Sacrifices have been made over the past 5 months. I do collapse after teaching for 10 hours onto the bed. But, for someone who has always embraced cutting edge research in education and the use of technology, the pandemic, still was an eye-opener. Imagine what a slap on the face it would be for conventional systems. The one I want to eradicate. We are well above Pre-COVID levels in terms of everything. The growth story is an inspiration in itself.

September, October, November 2020

The system of music education has changed. We will deploy a hybrid model of physical and virtual education because geographical boundaries have vanished. The international presence will be ramped up. I didn't know I could take my company global, so soon.

These months might see a retransition to the normal phase. It will be difficult for me to go through the whole transition phase again. But, I get to meet the kids. I get to interact with them endlessly like we used to. More than anything, we get to play music together again. Those were the days and It is all worth it.

In the end, I believe that if you do what you do, for the right reasons, and because you loved it, there's nothing a pandemic can do to stop you. As my teacher, Franco Vaz said, "If the mountain was smooth, how would you climb it, Rahul?".

Setup for Online Classes

If this helps anyone, I'd be thrilled. The setup is slightly complicated for good audio and requires a sizable investment. However, the video setup can be implemented for free. (PC)

Two phones as two camera inputs. One connects through Droid Cam and the other through Iriun webcam. The audio source is a professional XLR-condenser microphone, connected to an audio interface. Zoom is the platform I use and it detects this setup perfectly. The instruments go as secondary inputs into the audio interface. I use Google meet or WhatsApp video for backup. I keep away from headphones. I use Musescore for notation writing. I share assignments and chord charts through mail or WhatsApp. All books have been digitized and the share screen feature is used extensively. Hope something here helps you. Feel free to reach out if you are a teacher, and in need of assistance.

Hope this has been a good read. I also got to make more music during this time. You'll find them on my Youtube channel. Not much to do when your social activities come to a full stop huh?

As millions are already saying, "Take care and stay safe".

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