WVU offers online music lessons to students statewide.
Aya Hobeika was nervous at first. Her posture was tense as she gripped her violin and glided her bow across the strings. Her focus had gravitated toward one thing: the person on the other side of her computer screen.
Hobeika is one of dozens of West Virginia students who have participated in virtual music lessons provided free of charge by the faculty in the strings department of West Virginia University’s School of Music. The lessons instantly connect high school students with WVU experts via video-conferencing programs like Skype and FaceTime.
Violin professor Mikylah McTeer, who taught Aya’s virtual lesson, brought the idea to WVU after learning about a similar program at the University of Texas. “We’re not as big of a state as Texas, but we do have far-flown panhandles, and to get from Charleston to Morgantown or Wheeling to Morgantown is an investment,” McTeer says. “We discovered we can have really fruitful musical interactions through teaching with technology.”
The lessons allow West Virginia high school students who play the violin, viola, cello, or bass to prepare for upcoming auditions with “expert insight,” McTeer says. Instructors spend 15 minutes with students, focusing on specific pieces of music for coveted auditions for groups like the All State Orchestra audition.
WVU piloted its virtual lessons last year at John Marshall High School in Glen Dale and Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg. The lessons were a hit, so instructors have since started offering the lessons to schools statewide.
“We have a real duty and passion as faculty of a land grant institution to be there for our students in the state. We really believe in that and are really committed to that,” McTeer says. She and her colleagues at WVU have been working to cultivate relationships with music instructors across the state to offer the lessons to as many students as possible.
Hobeika, a junior at George Washington High School in Charleston, took advantage of the lessons at the recommendation of her orchestra teacher to help her prepare for a national symphony audition last spring. At first, she wasn’t sure what to expect. The private lessons she had previously taken throughout her seven years of playing had all been in person.
But not only was Hobeika accepted into the symphony, the 15-minute lesson with McTeer helped her grow as a player and put her at ease. “To be able to work with someone who is extremely well-known, a master of her craft, you still get the whole experience from it,” she says. “And even though it’s not an in-person thing where the sounds may be different, or she can’t actually move your posture for you, I think it makes you independent—to take advice from someone on a screen and be able to do it on your own.”
West Virginia high school students interested in taking virtual lessons with WVU faculty are encouraged to talk with their schools’ music teachers, who can contact the university’s School of Music to schedule.
written by CARLEE LAMMERS