At the end of our first week of online harp lessons, how did we do? All in all, very well.
Last week I sent a message to my harp students offering to continue our harp lessons on Skype. I then waited with baited breath to see what their response would be. They rose to the challenge with determination –even students in their 70s who would be the first to admit to not being tech savvy and would not have previously dreamed of using Skype, managed to install it, set themselves up and have their lesson. I was proud of them all.
Whilst its not ideal, its certainly better than nothing – teachers can retain their income and students can continue to progress and build on all their previous hard work. Its also something "normal” we can do together in these unprecedented times.
I expect many harp teachers will have done the same this week and moved lessons online. But if you are struggling, I hope this post will help to guide you towards starting to teach online. We’ll also look at expanding from one to one lessons and explore other ways that professional harpists can continue to earn an income and do what we love!
Teaching from Home
Skype https://www.skype.com/en/and Zoom https://zoom.us/ have emerged as the main platforms for communicating online with video calls. There are others to explore too. Skype is probably the simplest one to use for one to one teaching. You only need the free version for video calls and the no frills approach means that you can concentrate on the lesson rather than worrying about the technology.
Zoom also offers one to one video conferencing. Its slightly more complicated to use, but because it includes webinar facilities, it means that you can teach more than one student at a time. But one of the advantages of using a platform like Zoom is that you don’t have to stick to just your current students. Why not expand even further and offer a masterclass? It could be on your speciality – phrasing in the later works of Grandjany, anyone? Equally, you could offer a class for people who used to play, then gave up and who now want to brush up on their skills again. People are far more likely to dip their toe into an anonymous Zoom class than approach a real teacher for one to one lessons. You could end up with a whole new audience. What’s your niche?
Harpist Anne Crosby Gaudet has very helpfully put together a nice, watchable video on how to get started teaching with Zoom: https://youtu.be/vH0GwfVFJlc
If you want to get even more into it, the Royal Academy of Music in Denmark explains how to set up Zoom for the best audio for online teaching: https://youtu.be/50NoWIiYECA
There are also dedicated websites that handle the business side of teaching and provide the technology through their website. You just need to get yourself listed as a teacher. Here is an example: https://musictutors.co.uk/online-music-lessons
Creating your own Course
If you have time on your hands, you might like to create a course that people can sign up to and take in their own time.
Here, you might like to think of the type of course you could offer, the people you want to reach and your own following. If you want to offer a course that would have a wide appeal and you don’t have a huge following, then one of the big online course providers such as Udemy https://www.udemy.com/ would be a good choice as people searching for what you teach will find you. If, however, you want to create something more specialised, that people may not think of searching for -and you have a large enough social media following or mailing list to let enough people know about the course - you may find the commission rates are preferable on smaller platforms. These are springing up all the time, probably as I write, so have a google for what may suit you.
Performing from Home
Musicians are proving to be an innovative bunch and many are already offering online performances on platforms such as Zoom, Instagram live, Facebook live and Youtube live streaming. If you want people to purchase virtual tickets to these events, you can set up online events on ticketing platforms such as Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/ and then provide people with access codes. Alternatively, you can request virtual tips through donation platforms such as Paypal https://www.paypal.com/uk/home by providing your Paypal associated email.
See the first sentence of the previous paragraph! I’m sure you’ll have ideas that I haven’t even considered. You could sell downloads of recordings on platforms such as Bandcamp: https://bandcamp.com/artists (yes,you can also sell real CDs, but let’s be kind to the postmen and women and save them from unnecessary trips to people’s front doors). If you’re like me and have always wanted to score some arrangements but never had the time, well, you now probably have time. You can sell downloadable sheet music on your own website. How about offering video greetings cards that people can order to be sent via email to their choice of recipient? An interesting platform is Patreon where people can choose to subscribe at various tiers to receive something from you. The whole idea is to offer something small – many people will just be happy to support you – increasing in price and value. Remember to offer something special for super fans. But, at the same time, be safe (offering to play in their frontroom may not be such a good idea) and only offer something you can definitely provide. Here’s an example of what one New Zealand musician is offering: https://www.patreon.com/robthorne
I hope this has triggered some ideas for you. Feel free to improve on them and go and do it better! We are in challenging times for everyone, but thanks to the internet, we can still engage in the best of all possible worlds, something that is win-win, both for harpists and for students, fans and lovers of music. Good luck.