Spencer’s Lessons: Teacher or Technology?

I’ve spent the better part of 20 years talking about technology-enhanced music making and talked up the value of technology as a tool for music making and music education.  There is a huge tendency in the tech world to believe that every learning activity can be reduced to a technology solution – a notion I still reject.

Stats from the music products industry (NAMM)  have shown that about 22% of the population will attempt to self-teach.  This market is shared by DVDs, software, web sites, TV shows and various method books.  All of these CAN be used by a dedicated self-learner to achieve proficiency.  For a 7 year old – these techniques in their current state have about as much chance of delivering a potent experience as nothing but TV to teach language (it might help, but is not sufficient).  Thus, any ideas of plopping my (or most any kid), in front of the most well-constructed program yet devised, are not likely to deliver on the promise of a fulfilling music-making life.

So, if not computer technology, then what?  How about real people!  Yes, them – the forgotten organic technology capable of incredible diversity and flexibility – well, usually. Then, we add technology as appropriate – and voila – a great recipe for helping a 7 year old to achieve music literacy.

Spencer’s Piano Lessons: When to start?

My son Spencer is now 7 and 1/2 – and by one sense of reckoning, it’s a good time to start piano lessons.   After a fair amount of time in the music education tech business this is going to be the ultimate test of the old entrepreneurial adage to make sure to “eat your own dog food” since in this case, I’m asking my kid to eat some of this dog food.  Thus, the stakes are even higher.

This is being captured for two reasons.  One, to understand and remember what transpires here for our family and developmental history.  Two, for the occasional reader looking for a comparative viewpoint.

When to start lessons is a individualized decision – and while those Tiger Mothers get kids playing Chopin by age 3 – in our house, with two working parents and a physical and active kid like Spencer who’s shown little interest in the piano  – we waited until the moment was right.  Right for us meant teaching opportunity meets Daylight Savings Time.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have met a number of great piano teachers through my work, and I’m even more fortunate that one of the best,  Kathy Maskell (link?) was willing to take on Spencer for our grand experiment.

We also considered that the online tools I’d like to incorporate also depend upon the ability to read, and basic computer proficiency.

The experiment you ask?  The goal is to see if we could do this via the Internet and by using some of the current and evolving technologies to assist in the process.