Rochester's musicians in the making are looking for ways to improve their playing so they can come out of quarantine even better-- while maintaining social distance.
Ten-year-old Lucy Kreuter has been taking drum lessons with Alex Ortberg at Pure Rock Studios (PRS) for the last five months over Zoom.
Using screen-sharing, Ortberg demonstrates new techniques for Kreuter to learn.
“Absolutely the greatest benefit to my extroverted daughter who’s been deprived of so much of her normal social interactions is the one-on-one connection with her teacher,” says Kreuter’s mother Marie.
A full-time musician, Ortberg says that his gigs -- like so many others’ -- have ground to a halt, but he’s glad to be teaching students like Kreuter. He acknowledges there are drawbacks to teaching online, such as interruptions to video streams. But he enjoys teaching from home and has focused more on reading music, creating drum fills, and learning solos.
Ryan Utterback, the owner of Pure Rock Studios, has had his hands full navigating the business’ online transition in the past couple of months.
While the school has had a substantial decline in enrolled students, some have successfully started lessons during quarantine, and Utterback says his school was at least partially prepared for a switch to online music lessons because they had teaching software in place. Now that the shelter-in-place order for Minnesota is ending, however, the studio has begun offering in-person lessons again.
At 64, Garrison Lloyd says quarantine has reinvigorated his guitar playing.
“Social distancing has, surprisingly, intensified my practice and desire to make musical progress, more now than any other time over the 40 years I've been playing guitar,” he says.
Lloyd has been working on playing in the style of Django Reinhardt with his instructor Doug Thompson. Thompson says that pre-recording lessons requires more structure. “If there is a particular skill or song Lloyd wants to learn,” he says, “I deconstruct it and then find the best way for him to learn and retain it.”
Lloyd says that even when social-distancing is no longer needed, he’ll continue his online lessons through Zoom with Thompson.
Related: Page to Stage ... to screen
Many private instructors are having success with online teaching as well. Alec Tackmann has been mentoring Charlie Burket, a senior at Century High School. Tackmann is a full-time local musician and teacher who studied at Berklee College of Music, and Burket has also been accepted to study there.
“Alec and I talk a lot about Berklee and what I can expect this fall,” says Burket. With his senior year of high school ending online, Burket has had much more time available to practice the many instruments he plays, including bass, trombone, mandolin, and fiddle. “Without the distractions of normal life,” he says “I never have an excuse to not play music.” Frequently, Tackmann suggests new songs for Burket to work on and will then give him feedback via FaceTime lessons. Tackmann also encouraged Burket to publish performances on his own YouTube channel.
Though Burket and Tackmann miss being able to play together to work on what Burket calls “rhythmic accuracy and groove,” the two have still found online lessons valuable, and Burket appreciates the insight he’s gained from Tackmann about the music industry.
Tackmann uses a fish-eye camera lens so his students can see both his face and his drum set when he plays. He’s also learned to have PDFs of printed materials ready to send students.
One advantage to online teaching is the way it has allowed Tackmann to introduce Burket to music industry contacts, since many are now working via video, he says. Tackmann recently connected Burket with legendary bassist Carol Kaye for an online lesson.
Though online music lessons might require more patience, they are still a great way to nourish some music in your life, and that’s the kind of joy we all need more now than ever.
As Kreuter puts it, “Remember to practice as much as you can, even when it’s hard during this chaos.”