Phyllis Freeman has been teaching violin, viola and cello for 35 years.
Even before Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order on March 12 that shut down schools across the state, Freeman, the founder of Maryland Talent Education Center in Frederick, had been using videos to assist teaching her students. For about six years, she recorded herself to aid students during their practice times.
“It was a way for kids to do what we wanted them to do while practicing, but usually don’t do,” she said.
The video has helped the students learn to slow down and help with pacing, she explained.
Now with the coronavirus pandemic, Freeman said she has been teaching mostly online. For some of the classes to be more interactive, she uses Zoom, a video conferencing guide.
“It allows us to do group classes because you can have the kids ring in all at the same time,” she said.
The students can watch her learn bow positioning, fingerings and other teachings that are visual. As for playing, she said she could mute the students so that they can just hear her and themselves, or she can allow all the students to hear the entire group.
“Also it keeps the kids happy to see each other in the same room at least and it keeps their community going on,” she said, noting she has about 45 students.
When they started to have online courses, Freeman said she has had to learn to teach differently on video than what she did in person.
“When you’re in person, you can easily just reach over and adjust their hand or raise their elbow or drop their elbow or move their body into a position that moves more fluidly,” she said. “Online you kind of have to describe that to them. But you can also show them.”
She said they learn to model themselves after what she shows them on screen. And, the students can watch themselves online on their video screens.
Her website, ViolinPractice.com, has more than 1,000 videos to help violin students practice at home. She said people from around the world, like Sweden and Japan, have signed up to the site. Right now, Freeman is offering free two-week memberships for anyone who wants to take violin lessons.
“For beginning students, it’s very comprehensive with entire workouts they can print out and ... videos they can do every day,” she said.
The older kids, she said, tend to learn more about technique, musicality and artistic instruction.
Freeman is hoping the students take advantage of their down time and practice more.
“I think they’ll appreciate the comfort they will find through their interaction with each other,” she said. “I think they appreciate the community they belong to. … I think they’ll appreciate the beauty a lot more. I think everyone will. When we finally get to go back to concerts and we finally get to go back to museums, I think everybody’s going to be a lot more appreciative of the arts in our lives.”
Sue Leveille, the owner and founder of Give Rise Studio in downtown Frederick, is also taking her craft online.
Give Rise Studio is a creative community space for art and wellness, and Leveille is offering community members options through social media on how not to be idle during these times. She said she was already planning to offer videos of some of the classes for a while, but the pandemic shifted her focus.
“I’m offering some yin yoga and mobility classes through Facebook in my group and to the public,” she said.
She has plans to broadcast donation-based videos through YouTube and DIY videos for kids’ crafts with sales of accompanying craft kits that will be delivered for free in Frederick County.
“The studio’s aim is to slow people down, cultivate creative and wellness practices and support local creatives in a light-filled inspiring space,” she said. “Right now, creating this type of practice and space in our homes is what I can support. We need to take care of each other and for a small business — that means adjusting and offering services and products in a new way/format.”
Leveille is encouraging people to buy gift cards, products and services.
“For those, like me, that need to keep a watch on money, share business and organization’s content, write reviews, like posts and highlight their services/offerings,” she said. “As we look to the future we can create positive change together.”
Follow Crystal Schelle on Twitter: @crystalschelle.