Music Education Amidst a Pandemic

Music teachers find creative ways to reach students, but struggle with distance learning


By Abigail Manila, Advocate Staff

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a variety of drastic changes to how we proceed with our daily lives. One of the most prevalent areas it has affected is the education system, and more specifically, the music education system.

Extracurriculars such as band, orchestra, choir and private music lessons are all being forced to become virtual.

Teachers are quickly having to change the way each class proceeds and develop a better understanding of technology. This all must happen immediately, in order to continue with the classes they are currently teaching.

While many have found alternative ways to help their students, there are still many issues with technology that hinder students from learning effectively.

Music education online proves to be inadequate at giving students the proper training they would receive in person. This is especially true for those who perform in group settings, such as a band, orchestra or choir.

According to Guitar Teacher Bushey, learning online makes it harder for musicians to develop their skills as a group. 

“Whilst ensemble playing and group lessons are possible online, this approach does not offer the same level of social interaction or sound quality as playing together in the same room,” Bushey writes. “Indeed, playing together at all is almost impossible online due to the time lag between different members; a problem that grows with the number of users.”

The factors that make a musical group sound pleasant together are simply not possible over a simple video call, as technology tends to lag and distort sound.

This is an issue that affects all types of music education, whether private or with a group.

Camera angles are also a problem. Teachers can only see from one angle, making it tough for those who are in more physical music activities, such as marching band.

However, there are some advantages to distance learning.

Students now have much more free time. They also don’t have to wait until they get home from school or work to practice.

However, the disadvantages still greatly outweigh the benefits of virtual music learning.

While there are many teachers finding alternative ways to make their music classes as effective as possible, it’s not enough. There are too many components of playing in a musical group that are simply not achievable with online learning.

Music education in the midst of a pandemic has many limits. Thanks to technology, music teachers have a variety of ways they can reach their students. But it will need to keep improving in order to reach the level of in-person learning.