Is the future of music tuition online?

Nicole WilsonThu 5th February 2015

New portal Musical Orbit aims help aspiring musicians to learn from the best via the internet

Musical Orbit is a portal into the classical music profession which allows you to learn from the very best musicians in the business through one to one lessons. The inspiration behind this service followed on from my experiences in the Philharmonia String Scheme, which gave me a ‘foot in the door’ - a chance to meet the people who could hire me… or not. I was able to sit with them, get advice from them, ask questions about how the business works, what I was doing wrong that I could improve on and also try and make a favourable impression so that when the day came that someone was ill, they thought of me and I was given my first professional work. 

As soon as I had that on my CV, other orchestras took me a bit more seriously and were prepared to give me auditions. After several car crash auditions, and with a large dose of luck on the day, I secured a trial with the London Symphony Orchestra and went on to become a member of the first violin section. Subsequently I went on to become a Principal Violinist at English National Opera and a Guest Leader in several orchestras around the UK. However, I firmly believe I could never have got on that treadmill if I hadn’t had that amazing opportunity with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the beginning. 

There aren’t many places on schemes like these and over the years I have been approached by countless violinists asking me to hear them play, to give them advice on playing their audition/exam programmes. It’s a Catch 22 situation for many of them as they leave music college. They have a tiny CV so they aren’t considered for job auditions, so they can’t grow their CV. I feel for them. It is even harder now for them than it was 20 years ago when I left college, now with Arts Council funding shrinking, fewer job opportunities are coming up and when they do, the number of applicants increases every time. I recently sat on a panel where 250 violinists applied for a job and we only had time to hear 48 of them. That’s a lot of disappointed violinists, and who knows who we missed, who we simply didn’t have time to hear?

And so I have gathered together all my incredible musician friends (and they’re quite a bunch it turns out. Those folk lurking in the pub 20 years ago are now the principal players all around the world!) and we want to be able to give anybody an opportunity to pick our brains. Professional musicians have a crazy amount of travelling in their jobs and so have quite a bit of ‘dead time’ on tour. Up until now that’s been frustrating for the musicians and also for the people who would love a bit of their time but can’t get it. But thanks to huge improvements in technology, anyone with a broadband connection can now have an hour with these giants of the music world. Whether you are a music student looking to break into the profession, or you’re preparing for an exam and need a mock exam experience, or if you’re an amateur musician who would love a bit of expert guidance with your concert programme before you put yourself on the stage, an online lesson might be a fantastic way to improve your music making. 

Online lessons are becoming more and more popular as it saves on the cost of travel, the student can warm up right up to the last minute before the lesson and carry on practising afterwards to cement everything in their mind. At Musical Orbit we also offer an incredibly easy service to record your lesson to help with your practice, which always means you get the very most out of your lesson. 

I also wanted to make sure that it was as accessible as possible. So there’s lots of free masterclasses and webinars that members can join in. We cover lots of different topics from dealing with performance anxiety to making sure you look your best in concert dress. We also have a YouTube channel with personal videos from the Musical Orbit musicians.

When I first approached my professional musician friends to ask them if they would do this with me I expected them to be reluctant. After all being able to have physical contact with a student is common practice and I was concerned they might not be prepared to try this new way of teaching. But I was overwhelmed with their enthusiasm for it! Although many of them admit it took a few minutes to get used to talking to a student online, and setting up their stand/music/computer at an angle where everyone could see each other properly, I was thrilled at how they have taken to it and some actually admit they loved it! 

So as we drag ourselves kicking and screaming into the 21st century, maybe we classical musicians won’t be quite so technophobic as we have been in the past, as we learn to get new (perhaps even better?) things from this ever changing world and to help the next generation forge their own path from the comfort of their sofas…

Nicole Wilson

Violinist Nicole Wilson launched online music lessons website and industry hub Musical Orbit in 2014. This followed a career which spanned over 20 years in London’s top orchestras, which included first violinist of the London Symphony Orchestra and principal violinist of the English National Opera, as well as a film and television sessions orchestra fixer and CD producer.

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