PHOTO : TULANE PUBLIC RELATIONS / FLICKR
“ We don ’ t want to be online , we want to come in .” It was a huge shift — I think what happened was , parents realized , or even adults realized , they were online so much . I know , when we did the shift with teachers , and we talked about what we did , there are so many limitations , just depending on the instrument . Like drum teachers , they have a kid with their iPad smashing the heck out of the drum set . As a teacher , you couldn ’ t hear what they were doing . You know , you have to say , “ Okay , just do the snare part .” It was awkward . Most of the teachers and most of the people on the other end didn ’ t get the fulfillment and the quality lessons that they could , and I know , I ’ m sort of going against the grain of “ It was awesome . It was so good .”
I think for me and the teachers I deal with , we take a very recreational approach to what we do . And so instead of my kids playing scale patterns up and down and circle of fourths and whatever — that ’ s boring . I teach jazz . So , with some kids it ’ s like , “ Okay , put on your track and improvise for me .” Then I ’ d have to critique while I tried to play something back . I don ’ t think it was fulfilling for a lot of people . So , we were surprised , we thought we ’ d be about 50 / 50 hybrid , with half online and half coming in , but it was just overwhelming — 90 % of people wanted to come in . So , I think the shift actually made people hungrier for in-person lessons .
CMT : With people having more free time to learn an instrument during the pandemic , did you see any unexpected business , and how has this kept up since the pandemic has cooled down ?
Gamber : We saw an upsurge in people buying instruments because we were doing curbside service . Call us up or send us an email and come pick it up . With lessons , there ’ s what I call the “ rock and roll segment ” of your lesson program — the drummers , bass players , guitar players — and then there ’ s the traditional piano people . And then there ’ s the band instrument and orchestral players . So , we saw a huge drop during the pandemic with our band and orchestral kids , they were dropping the band program because of trying to do band on Zoom .
If you look at the music programs today , levels of pupil enrollment , you can tell when you ’ re looking at what I call “ pandemic kids .” Piano lessons seemed to get an uptick , because it was more of a personal thing they I had time to learn , and guitar , stuff like that . Drum set was awkward . We pivoted very quickly with what we did ; when they shut down the state of California one day , on a Thursday , that night , everyone would have a text message on how they were going to connect with their teacher . So , we pivoted , but then we also pivoted really quick with people coming back in for lessons . We kept within guidelines , a lot was going on , and we weren ’ t violating stuff . But as soon as we could , we shifted . I think word got out that you could come in and take lessons from us and I think that ’ s why we started seeing an explosion in our lessons .
Also , one of the things we ’ ve done is we ’ ve started more performance events for our students of different kinds . And during the pandemic , we were doing things via video . We ’ re doing these projects , and the kids enjoy doing them . It ’ s fun . We ’ re having fun playing music . That live music aspect , I think , which was an integral part of what we do , we pivoted back into that .
To see more tips from Gamber , go to bit . ly / nammgamberlessons .
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor of Canadian Music Trade .
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