Saturday, August 24, 2013

MacPhail Center for Music {A Review}

Music lessons for homeschoolers in your home.

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MacPhail Center for Music

The Essentials - What you need to know
  • MacPhail Center for Music 
  • Grades K-12
  • Live, on-line music lessons using Sykpe.  There are technology requirements: a fast internet connection, microphone and web camera. For more info on the technical aspects you can check out MacPhail's online lesson webpage.  
  • Price {from MacPhail's website}
    Special Introductory Pricing - Individual Instruction - Four Online Lessons for $111.  Receive four 30-minute individual online lessons from an outstanding teaching artist, from the convenience of your home. All K–12 homeschool students are eligible to participate in this package, a 25% discount from standard tuition rates.
    Daytime Flex Packs for Live Online Lessons offer flexibility to accommodate your busy schedule and help you achieve your unique musical goals. Simply schedule 8 Live Online Lessons during the 18 week semester on any weekday from 9 am – 3 pm CST. Unexpected scheduling conflict? Our cancellation policy gives you the option of canceling your lesson up to 48-hours in advance, without forfeiting the lesson. Whether you travel for work or leisure, juggle kids' extracurricular activities, or live in an area where options for studying your instrument are limited, MacPhail's Daytime Flex Pack can help you experience the joy of music-making. Standard pricing will apply after introductory lessons at $37 per 30-minute lesson.

The Review

This was one of the very best musical education experiences that Zippy has had.  I was very pleased with the entire process from the first contact through the final drum lesson.

The lessons are done through Skype.  This was a new and exciting experience for me.  Before lessons could begin I had to install Skype. It was painless and the people at MacPhail were available every step of the process. To start Kristin, the Online Manager, sent an informative e-mail describing the process from installing Skype to matching Zippy with a teacher.  Then Kristin and I had a face to face conversation via Skype to check to see if all of my technical requirements were functioning properly.  We went over the basics and she had Zippy bang on her drum to make sure the sound was coming in clearly.  Then she matched Zippy up with a teacher and we set the up the first lesson via e-mail. Kristin also checked with me via e-mail in the middle and at the end of the lessons.  If any issues arose, I felt comfortable in contacting her. For this review we had four lessons, one lesson per week for four weeks.

A short background on Zippy's drumming.  She played the drums for two years in small band in a small school.  Then she had six months of drum lessons. Zippy was matched with David as a teacher.  I really had no expectations or goals for the lessons.  Zippy likes to play the drums and I thought this would be a fun and educational for her.  David was organized, professional and patient.  I think she learned as much from this four week lesson run as she did in the six months of lessons prior.  Previously Zippy was taking lessons with the goal of trying out for a local youth symphony. She did not feel confident when auditions came around in the Spring.  I believe that if she took lessons with MacPhail with that same goal she would be prepared to audition.

While there was a general plan, David was very willing to meet Zippy where she was technically and in what she wanted to learn.  Every lesson he reviewed what she learned previously, instructed her on new information and gave her three goals to accomplish in her practice for the week.  The structure provided by the teacher made a huge impact.  It allowed Zippy to focus on what she needed to do.  Beforehand there was no mention of a book and I figured that I would have to order one.  I was delighted to find there was no book, instead David utilized Evernote an information sharing and storage application. In Evernote the teacher provided a a pdf e-book of drum sheet music, mp3s of practice rhythms, and written information as well. He used Evernote during the lesson to notate goals that Zippy should work on during the week.  Evernote is also capable of recording sound.  One week Zippy recorded her practice for David to analyse.  Another week David recorded the lesson so Zippy could go back and practice what he showed her during the lesson.  I was minimally involved.  My involvement primarily consisted of scheduling practice time for Zippy during our homeschool day.

I asked Zippy how she felt about the lessons.  "It was awesome." "He was a really great teacher." She asked for more lessons as a birthday present.  That speaks for itself.
The lessons took place during the day in our home.  This was exciting to me, as a mom, for three reasons. First Zippy works best earlier in the day.  This means that she is sharper for the lessons, so she could get the most out of it.  Second I did not have to take the time to drive anywhere. As a one car family it is sometimes difficult to manage homeschool activities that happen during the day.  Third, I did not have to find someone to watch the Little Dude or deal with a four year old in a waiting room. Zippy was on the first floor taking lessons and I took the Little Dude upstairs to play, both children were happy.

A word about price.  When I first looked at the price I was a bit daunted.  It is more expensive than most lessons that I have priced locally in the Detroit area. After experiencing the quality of teaching and the resources that were made available to Zippy  I came to the conclusion that while initially it seems more expensive it did prove results and thus is a better value.

If you are looking for high quality lessons for your homeschooled child from the comfort of your own home MacPhail Center for Music is the way to go.

I wanted to share one last thing.  Zippy's crowning achievement for the four lessons was the skill of a drum roll.  Here is a short video:


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