What’s Changed for Music Education in the Pandemic
With virtual classes becoming more than just a stop-gap solution, we take a look at four platforms and institutes and how they’ve adapted
Between March 2020 and now, music education moving online is no longer about a video call with your teacher and battling latency or internet issues. After all, professional level courses and rigorous one on one training are still on the agenda when it comes to shaping the Indian music industry’s future minds.
Where India’s music schools – big and small – were making strides by strengthening international partnerships (like Global Music Institute’s Berklee Track and their credit transfer agreement to help students move from the Noida Campus to Boston or Valencia), the pandemic and its ensuing travel restrictions didn’t exactly stall plans. If anything, it led them to pivot and adapt new ways to keep their associations strong, while also trying to ensure students weren’t shortchanged in terms of education.
There were a few newer education technology players such as Muzigal who offer on-demand live classes. They saw space to grow when everything was going virtual, as did existing institutes like Lost Stories Academy and Furtados School of Music. Below, we examine just a handful of new and existing learning platforms and what they’re doing to make music education more accessible.
From April this year, one of Mumbai’s leading music schools – True School of Music – partnered with Vijayabhoomi University in Karjat to offer on-campus degree programs in music production, performance, sound engineering or Hindustani playback. This meant that TSM’s professional courses were now recognized degrees. They already have about 80 students on campus. Co-founder Ashu Phatak says that even before the pandemic, he was always pushing for TSM to have a hybrid system and curriculum. He says, “There’s some things that worked really well online and that worked really well offline. The ideal situation is a combination of both.” His method for successfully transplanting music education to a virtual space is looking beyond just Zoom or any video calls. “You need to be mindful that when you’re delivering something online, that it is of the same quality that you could do when it’s offline,” he adds.
Launched in July last year, Muzigal claims to have over 400 teachers and over 10,000 “enrolled learners” in countries like the U.S., Canada, India, Australia and other parts of Asia. It allows people to select their personal tutor based on the specific style, instrument or vocal type they want to master, but only to a level that would prep them for further courses via institutes like Trinity College. Muzigal founder Dr. Lakshminarayana Yeluri says they did face hurdles in onboarding and preparing the more senior and “retired teachers” for using the app, but having family around helped overcome technical issues in setting up. He points out that “digital upgradation of the music education industry is challenging” owing to the “prejudice” around receiving education online. Dr. Yeluri adds, “Yet another challenge is the technically challenged teacher base that at times becomes stagnant to manage effectively. Particularly when the teachers or even students have unstable internet connections, inadequate camera setups, we face challenges. However, we are proud to have a proficient and dedicated team that has worked day and night to get rid of these roadblocks by conducting knowledge-sharing sessions and one-on-one technical support.”
Furtados School of Music
Also among the longer-standing music institutions in India – which branched out of the sworn-by music retailer Furtados in Mumbai – the Furtados School of Music began branching out in cities across India in 2014 after about three years of slow building. Co-founder and co-CEO of FSM Tanuja Gomes says they had 75,000 students across 150 schools in India in March 2020. Within a month, they took the total to over 100,000 after going virtual. Online learning was part of their plans since 2019, which finally led to the launch of their platform FSM Buddy. It facilitates users to sign up, pick an “interactive course” and fix a schedule. FSM’s focus was previously young learners between five and 15 years old, but they’ve now begun making things easier for adult learners and senior citizens. Gomes adds about catering to an older age group, “The learning format has to be fun, easy and not very technical. It’s how easily and quickly they can pick up and play their favorite pieces. That makes a huge difference. We have our curriculum ‘Learn a song’ only for adult category which is easy learning program. We also have created content which is used to deliver blended learning programs.”
Lost Stories Academy
Founded by electronic music duo Lost Stories in Mumbai as a production DJ school in 2016, Lost Stories Academy recently introduced an All Access Pass to make courses as affordable as they come, at Rs 1,000 per month. A free account at the school also allows access to their forum and free lessons, which has led to over 1,500 new users joining. The courses range from Ableton to sound designing, music theory and “advance level” courses of about 100 hours. Lost Stories Academy co-founder Prayag Mehta says their goal has always been to make music education accessible and affordable. “We also received feedback regarding the language barrier as not all were very comfortable with the training language being English. As any good business, we listened to the constructive feedback from our potential students and worked towards providing our courses in Hindi, Gujarati and English to ensure that language does not come in the way of education and learning for the truly passionate students,” he says.
Among the smaller and newer schools on the block specifically catering to production, when Lost Stories Academy pivoted to online classes, they had more than a 100 students enrolled. As offline courses resume in Mumbai, Mehta says there’s been a 25 percent increase in admissions for these. He adds, “The online school is also doing well compared to last year and on an average we receive 10 to 20 new sign-ups every two months for our live online courses.”
Ask Mehta if making a course more financially accessible as well as free would reduce its intrinsic value, he says that since the online classes are “self-paced,” they’ve attracted diligent students. For their part, Lost Stories did have to put “a lot of other projects” on hold for a few months to finance the new online system, but it’s worth it if it helps foster a new wave of young Indian producers. “We wanted to reach out to a lot of students in different cities who were interested in taking up music as a profession and help them in every way possible,” Mehta says.