Nutmeg Drum Teacher Finds Advantages in Online Instruction. Do You?

Vistalite Black

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Today, the bizarrely named "Hartford Courant" newspaper ran a story about a pretty cool drum teacher forced to move the lessons of dozens of eager young (and quite old) drummers from the drum studio at his compound to the online realm. Surprisingly, Chris Latournes of Windsor Locks only had good things to say about the experience.

In fact, he was so positive, I'm pretty confident he's part of the majority of professional drummers who plays a hybrid kit when he's not dealing with all those kids though the magic of FaceTime and MySpace Live.

Having lived in Connecticut for seven years, I always found "The Hartford Courant" newspaper to be bizarre for the fact there's only a handful of people on earth who know what the second part of its name means -- without looking it up. If you claim you do, I won't believe you.

Since, I'm sure you're interested, let me say this about Connecticut: It's interesting only for its proximity to other places (NYC, Boston, Quebec). It's classically Connecticut that he's described as a Windsor Locks residence in Sentence 1, then Sentence 2 immediately let's us know he's a Windsor Locks native. That wouldn't matter to any reporter or reader in any other state with the possible exception of Hawaii (where Haoles is the word for non-natives).

It seems fitting the state's biggest newspaper would cling to a name that 99% of people can't pronounce and don't know the meaning of.

Latournes is clearly one of the good guys. Here's the story from The Courant (which means something about running?):

Drum Teacher Finding Insights In Online Instruction

Chris Latournes, a drum teacher in Windsor Locks, is teaching his students over the internet, but is also finding that there are challenges, as well as a couple of advantages to doing so.

Latournes, a Windsor Locks native, studied at the University of Indiana, and then at Boston University and the New England Conservatory of Music. He then began acquiring his own instruments, and giving lessons out of his home, back in Windsor Locks. He is also a tutor for the behavioral special education program at South Elementary School.

With 37 students from age six to 65, Latournes was teaching from a converted in-law apartment on the lower level of his home, before school, at night, and on weekends.
Since social-distancing became a way of life, he now uses the Zoom application or FaceTime to teach them remotely. He teaches beginners as well as students who are preparing for national-level auditions. He said each student is making the same level of progress as they were with live lessons.

“They’ll prop me up, on their device, on a music stand or a chair,” he said. “It actually works better than I thought it would.”
The internet speed and bandwidth has been pretty good, Latournes said.

“One of the things that’s a little bit challenging is that it’s hard for me to play with them, in unison, because there is a slight delay,” he said. “If I count something off, they’re a split second later than they should be starting.”
However, Latournes said he has learned something from that challenge - that sometimes students were relying too much on him.

“I was a crutch for them to play with,” he said. “But, in the real world, when they are in their school jazz bands or ensembles... I’m not there to play with them. So, in the video, if they’re not able to play on their own, we need to work on that. It’s actually worked out pretty well to see what they can and cannot do.”

Another unexpected advantage to the distance learning is that Latournes can see when the students have their kits configured incorrectly.

“I assumed that when they play on my drum set, they knew how to set up drum sets,” he said, noticing some odd set-ups for students’ home drum sets. “I’m seeing a lot of crazy approaches, with really high and slanted cymbals, stools not being set up, and some students who haven’t used carpets... so the drums don’t slide all over the place.”
Those revelations are things that Latournes thinks might help him be a better teacher.

“I’m really finding I need to pare down my teaching, breaking it down and explaining every little detail, to make sure they’re drum sets are set up for success for them,” he said. “It’s really kind of eye-opening, and I feel like there are other avenues to make progress with them.”
Latournes also finds sometimes there is a language barrier with new students, as they have to work through exactly how they are going to connect for their lessons. One student had already used up the amount of internet time her parents had allotted on her iPad, so that had to be corrected.
“After the first or second time, it’s much easier to handle all the technology," he said.

Here's a link to the story, which includes unflattering photographs: https://www.courant.com/community/windsor-locks/hc-wl-windsor-locks-letournes-0902-20200402-adc6k3zzhzbtzoxl5r7dqirusu-story.html

Vista Note -- Now that you've read the story, I'm sure you were surprised to see that the reporter not only took the time to ask about bandwidth, but devoted a sentence or two of the story to what's inarguably the least interesting part about all of this. I also find it strange the kid in the photo is not named (I suspect it's a little Latournes beaming in from another room in the same house. Otherwise, you'd have to involve another set of parents... It'd be a whole thing).
 
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gwbasley

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I have always tried to include a some of those things learned through many years experience as a musician, like how to get gigs, work with other musicians, show respect for your audience, and especially, how practice pays off. The one thing I couldn't see was how and where my students actually spent their time behind their own kits...until now.

Today was "fix-it day". I helped and 8 year old's mom fix a pedal (the spring disassembled itself)...another needed advice on mic and camera placement...another impressed me by just sounding so incredibly better on his acoustic kit than the hybrid set up we have at school (he was probably more relaxed at home in his most familiar practice space)...another very promising student had a set that sounded terrible so I helped him tune it so he can sound as good as he plays.

During the past several weeks I have met their parents, brothers and sisters and even their pets. I feel like I've been invited into their homes and them into mine. There is something very real and personal about it and I think we are all closer for it.
 

Trilock_Gurtu

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Like most things, there's advantages and disadvantages to both, in-person and online. I've been involved in online music education for many years, and imo, online has an edge, if done properly. I see lots of online teachers not maximizing the possibilities.
 

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