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Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
#2985469 05/29/20 02:48 PM
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Hi everyone,

I recently created a video talking about the advantages/disadvantages of online lessons. Given that they're coming from a student who tried both (1 year face to face + 1 year and a half online), I tried to provide a balanced view and would love to hear more about others' experiences.

I was also wondering, are there any tips that you might be able to offer others in order to make their online lessons more successful, particularly at this time?

Mine would be to, at the very least, play through the material a few minutes before the lesson. I find 30 mins optimal for this as it's not too much to burn me out but also enough to get me warmed up and into a "piano mindset" rather than just "chilling in my bedroom" type mindset.

There were a few very interesting points made in the video comments and would love to hear from others too. Feel free to post either here or on the video and copy the comments across to hopefully benefit others on both platforms smile


Last edited by Peter Hontaru; 05/29/20 02:52 PM.

Jan '18 - Started playing
Nov '18 - Grade 3 (d)
Nov '19 - Grade 5 (p)

??? '20 - Grade 6

If you'd like to follow my progress, recitals, experiences, check out my YouTube channel
https://www.youtube.com/PeterHontaru
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Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2985474 05/29/20 03:05 PM
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Peter, that is an excellent summary. This could be a good resource for anyone, student or teacher, to go to.

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
keystring #2985479 05/29/20 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Peter, that is an excellent summary. This could be a good resource for anyone, student or teacher, to go to.
Thank you very much, means a lot to hear that!

Took me a long time to put everything together but I haven't seen anything like this, particularly from the perspective of a student. I do not teach so I do not have anything to gain either way. It's just that I know I would've liked to see something like this before I started and thought I'd share it out here as well.

I did not actually have teachers in my intended audience when I thought what to include but now I can see why I'd also like to see this as a teacher. Someone in the comments actually mentioned that they teach and found it helpful as it allowed them to understand more about what a student finds important and how online lessons can be valuable.


Jan '18 - Started playing
Nov '18 - Grade 3 (d)
Nov '19 - Grade 5 (p)

??? '20 - Grade 6

If you'd like to follow my progress, recitals, experiences, check out my YouTube channel
https://www.youtube.com/PeterHontaru
Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2985481 05/29/20 03:20 PM
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Very good Peter. I'm trying to decide if I will do some online lessons this summer, so this helps...

Sam

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2985482 05/29/20 03:21 PM
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The one thing you have not addressed is physical playing, the technique part, technical problems. A teacher cannot see you from multiple angles, nor you him. He cannot touch a tense shoulder. I work on-line. I used to have in person lessons on another instrument. I've seen students who have in person lessons, but with a so-so teacher, end up getting technical fixes on-line, with a teacher who understands more, so this isn't written in stone either. But this may be on the disadvantage side for on-line, what do you think?

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
keystring #2986069 05/31/20 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Sam S
Very good Peter. I'm trying to decide if I will do some online lessons this summer, so this helps...

Sam

Thank you so much Sam, this is exactly why I made the video. Hope your online lessons will go well if you decide to take them up smile


Originally Posted by keystring
The one thing you have not addressed is physical playing, the technique part, technical problems. A teacher cannot see you from multiple angles, nor you him. He cannot touch a tense shoulder. I work on-line. I used to have in person lessons on another instrument. I've seen students who have in person lessons, but with a so-so teacher, end up getting technical fixes on-line, with a teacher who understands more, so this isn't written in stone either. But this may be on the disadvantage side for on-line, what do you think?


Yes, and in hindsight, I should've made it more obvious.

You have also made a very good point regarding teachers. I have had better technique feedback with my online teacher than my face to face teacher simply because of the quality of the teacher.

Technique aspects aren't completely ignored via online lessons but 100% agree it's more effective/efficient to do so in real life. That's why I said it's not for beginners and potentially not for the very advanced either.

I think intermediates (like myself) can get away with it as long as they're willing to take a slight loss on this aspect (it won't ever match reality, for the reasons you said).

If I am (and likely will) take online lessons at some later point in my life, it will be due to a higher focus on this aspect. It all is just a balancing act of what you're willing to gain and lose and that should help the decision. Hope this helps clarify it smile

Last edited by Peter Hontaru; 05/31/20 09:07 AM.

Jan '18 - Started playing
Nov '18 - Grade 3 (d)
Nov '19 - Grade 5 (p)

??? '20 - Grade 6

If you'd like to follow my progress, recitals, experiences, check out my YouTube channel
https://www.youtube.com/PeterHontaru
Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2986145 05/31/20 12:15 PM
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Thanks for the video.

I'm not sure teacher flexibility regarding scheduling and pay as you go is a general thing. I think most teachers, whether in person or online, will have a schedule in place for their regular students and may not have a lot of flexibility for scheduling lessons at just any time. The 'pay as you go' aspect is probably no different whether in person or online. Some teachers require an upfront payment for a number of lessons, others don't. If I were about to teach someone who wanted just a lesson here and there, I'd ask for payment upfront.

In my own short experience with online lessons, I find them adequate but not superior to in-person. My teacher has made the comment that her students are doing well with online lessons during the pandemic (more time to practice, for sure). She finds online adequate for teaching rhythm, notes, dynamics (somewhat), but not for tone production or pedaling, and limited for dynamics.


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In summer, the song sings itself. --William Carlos Williams

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2986289 05/31/20 05:03 PM
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This is a very interesting thread and video. Thank you for taking the time to share. I am also considering studying with an online teacher vs. self study through DVDs and videos. I’m not sure if they can be equally as effective. The appeal of the online route is the personalized attention one can receive while studying with a reputed teacher. However, the self study route offers more flexibility with time management and direction of the learning.

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
20/20 Vision #2986796 06/01/20 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Thanks for the video.

I'm not sure teacher flexibility regarding scheduling and pay as you go is a general thing. I think most teachers, whether in person or online, will have a schedule in place for their regular students and may not have a lot of flexibility for scheduling lessons at just any time. The 'pay as you go' aspect is probably no different whether in person or online. Some teachers require an upfront payment for a number of lessons, others don't. If I were about to teach someone who wanted just a lesson here and there, I'd ask for payment upfront.

In my own short experience with online lessons, I find them adequate but not superior to in-person. My teacher has made the comment that her students are doing well with online lessons during the pandemic (more time to practice, for sure). She finds online adequate for teaching rhythm, notes, dynamics (somewhat), but not for tone production or pedaling, and limited for dynamics.

Definitely agree with you, it depends on the teacher, for sure. However, I did not find anyone that was able to offer as much flexibility as I have with my online lessons whether it's about the timing of day/week as well as the number of lessons in a month. I was referring to this latter aspect when I mentioned: "pay as you go". I personally like to pay in advance, at the beginning of the month, regardless, as it's much easier to budget and sort out everything in advance, although my teacher did not ask for it and is likely to be happy with individual upfront payments. Regardless of whether someone pays lesson by lesson or a month at a time, I would also require at least an upfront payment and I hope all teachers do!

I agree with you, from a piano-playing point of view, online lessons have no benefit over face to face (strictly from a piano performance aspect). My reason for taking piano lessons simply relate to the other advantages (the major one being teacher availability given that I don't live in a metropolitan area).

I also agree with you that with a good connection, rhythm, notes, dynamics, etc all can be taught. Excellent pedalling is indeed tough to teach online and tone production limited too.

Great to see that some students were able to take up online lessons successfully.

Originally Posted by 20/20 Vision
This is a very interesting thread and video. Thank you for taking the time to share. I am also considering studying with an online teacher vs. self study through DVDs and videos. I’m not sure if they can be equally as effective. The appeal of the online route is the personalized attention one can receive while studying with a reputed teacher. However, the self study route offers more flexibility with time management and direction of the learning.

Glad you found value in it - I think you can try and combine both if you can!
In my first year (not too long ago), I was working both with a face to face piano teacher and through the Alfred/Faber books and consulting with my teacher every couple of weeks or so.
While I gave up on the self-study books, I now watch a lot of videos/masterclasses/tutorials online (mainly YouTube) so that aspect of self-study never really faded away. And as you said, you can do as much (or little) as you time allows you.


Jan '18 - Started playing
Nov '18 - Grade 3 (d)
Nov '19 - Grade 5 (p)

??? '20 - Grade 6

If you'd like to follow my progress, recitals, experiences, check out my YouTube channel
https://www.youtube.com/PeterHontaru
Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Sam S #2987916 06/04/20 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Sam S
Very good Peter. I'm trying to decide if I will do some online lessons this summer, so this helps...

Sam

I had 'in person' lessons for 1.5 years now I have online lessons from the same teacher. Truthfully, I prefer the online lessons for a few reasons:
1- minimally cheaper although this is not a major factor
2- I get to play on my own piano- this may just be me but I find I know my own piano better than my teacher's thus my playing sounds nicer
3- I am not really an anxious person but having someone peer over my shoulder leads to me making more mistakes, despite having lessons for 1.5 years
4- No travelling to the teacher (not far only 10-20 mins by car), but I always like to leave a bit of time just in case of traffic
5- It gives me the option of having teachers worldwide if I wanted, which opens the options to it being of it being more cost effective or an increase in quality of teaching

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2987985 06/04/20 07:29 PM
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Robert Estrin is now offering online video lessons:


Email enquiry: Robert@LivingPianos.com

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2988103 06/05/20 07:55 AM
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Congratulations in getting so many people to comment on your video and engage in a constructive discussion! I don't care about lessons, not even online ones, so I can't add anything to that - I'll just say well done!

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
thepianoplayer416 #2988738 06/07/20 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Robert Estrin is now offering online video lessons:
That's about the most uninformative video I have ever seen on the subject.

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Stubbie #2988767 06/07/20 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
In my own short experience with online lessons, I find them adequate but not superior to in-person. My teacher has made the comment that her students are doing well with online lessons during the pandemic (more time to practice, for sure). She finds online adequate for teaching rhythm, notes, dynamics (somewhat), but not for tone production or pedaling, and limited for dynamics.
I was super busy when I saw this and wanted to give some thoughts, Stubbie.

What I'm understanding is that you've been taking in-person lessons with a good teacher, and now due to the pandemic you are studying on-line with the same teacher, who is probably teaching on-line for the first time because she has to. Clearly the on-line will be inferior to the alternative. You have to get a broader picture. The two variables are a) what is available to the student otherwise, b) how the on-line teaching is done. I've had a chance to see a lot of both. In no particular order:

- I was registered in platform-type lessons. ArtistWorks is the most familiar. The teacher has 300 - 600 prerecorded, organized teaching videos created over 10 - 25 years. When a student submits a video, usually from a lesson, the teacher gives video feedback. All registered students can see all submissions and feedback on any such lesson, and can learn that way. The teachers where I registered were competent, very knowledgeable, very experienced teachers. One may not be able to get such a teacher locally.

At times I saw students who also had in-person lessons with a local teacher. This was mostly violin but I can translate into a piano context. Suppose a student has been struggling for a year during the in-person lessons, with the private teacher saying this and that should sound better, but the student just struggles. The on-line teacher has one look at a video and says, "You are shoved up into the piano so you have no room to move, and you are sitting way too low so that you have to hunch your shoulders and arch your wrists. Find your ideal distance and height." The student works on distance and height, and half a dozen problems disappear. Now in the piano example you'll say "Well, the teacher can't see the student's setup at home." but a violin student brings his instrument with him. When you see such a student's playing improve substantially, incrementally, over a short period of time, when they were stuck for a year, you'll draw some conclusions.

In other words, the local choice of teachers may not give you a good choice. Or the available teacher may have some holes in what they are able to teach. If you can access a really good teacher on-line, that is a great step up. If you are already with a really good teacher, as you are, it makes no sense to switch.

- The second element is how it is set up, how the teaching goes. On-line teaching is of a much different nature than in-person. For now I'm staying in the platform area as a first base. Ideally, a teaching video has good video and audio. The video itself should be well planned and well organized, thought through ahead of time. The student will be studying that video over and over, and in stages over days. This is very different from an in-person lesson. Every motion you make should count. There will be support material as PDFs, and maybe links to other resources on other sites.

One-on-one on-line (non-platform) is the best if it doesn't try to duplicate in-person.

I've been working one-on-one on-line for a number of years with my main teacher. We happened to meet, we're in different countries, and I recognized an excellent teacher. He usually teaches in-studio and we've ranted about the weaknesses more than once. That said:
Quote
She finds online adequate for teaching rhythm, notes, dynamics (somewhat), but not for tone production or pedaling, and limited for dynamics.
Is she teaching pedal and dynamics on-line, while being on-line? Because here I think you want to supplement off-line. A video that is produced and sent will be much more clear than the distortions you get while being live. The same for pedal. You cannot duplicate an in-person lesson, while on-line, because it's not the same thing. We ended up with a multiple approach. And for some aspects it was, and remains, frustrating as you say.

Just some thoughts that came to me when I read yours. smile

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2988783 06/07/20 03:00 PM
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I will be starting online lessons next week, with the teacher I study with during Summerkeys. I have taken lessons with him every summer for the last 9 summers. Usually we will do 3 lessons a week for just one or two weeks, so this will be a very different experience for the lessons, since I have never taken weekly lessons from him before. Usually for Summerkeys I work for months on a few pieces, and when I show up at the music camp I am ready to play them at a decent level - that's very different from a normal lesson.

We are going to do Zoom - I've experimented with it for my local music group with mixed results.

Here are the settings he told me to change:

Quote
===
1. Restart the Zoom client if it is already running.
2. Go to “Settings.”
3. Go to “Audio.”
4. Click the “Advanced” button.
5. Check the box entitled, ‘Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone.’
6. Set “Suppress Persistent Background Noise” to “Disabled.”
7. Set “Suppress Intermittent Background Noise” to “Disabled.”
8. Ensure “Echo Cancellation” is set to “Auto.”

Note these settings are only available on a Mac or Windows computer/device. You will only need to make these changes once for each computer/device. Finally, ensure you point the microphone at the instrument to further increase the audio quality.
===

I've got a Zoom H4n (not the software program) with external mics, so I can use that for the computer audio. You put the Zoom in monitor mode and connect the line out to the computer line in.

Sam

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2988799 06/07/20 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
What I'm understanding is that you've been taking in-person lessons with a good teacher, and now due to the pandemic you are studying on-line with the same teacher, who is probably teaching on-line for the first time because she has to. Clearly the on-line will be inferior to the alternative. You have to get a broader picture. The two variables are a) what is available to the student otherwise, b) how the on-line teaching is done.
I think few people would argue that, in the face of no teacher or a poor selection of teachers or some physical limitation, on-line saves the day. However, it's a huge jump to make the assumption that my teacher (or any other teacher) "teaching on-line for the first time because she has to" is doing an inferior job. That is an unfair assumption. If a teacher makes the assessment, after a period of teaching by both methods, that there are things that you cannot do on-line that are routinely done in person, or that are done better, then that is their professional assessment.

As I noted in my earlier post, my teacher says her students are doing well with online lessons. I expect my summer lessons will continue to be on-line, going forward. Keystring, it's not clear to me whether you are currently (recognizing the pandemic interruption) or recently have taken in person piano lessons. You are in a location which should provide a good selection of teachers.


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In summer, the song sings itself. --William Carlos Williams

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Stubbie #2988822 06/07/20 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by keystring
What I'm understanding is that you've been taking in-person lessons with a good teacher, and now due to the pandemic you are studying on-line with the same teacher, who is probably teaching on-line for the first time because she has to. Clearly the on-line will be inferior to the alternative. You have to get a broader picture. The two variables are a) what is available to the student otherwise, b) how the on-line teaching is done.
I think few people would argue that, in the face of no teacher or a poor selection of teachers or some physical limitation, on-line saves the day. However, it's a huge jump to make the assumption that my teacher (or any other teacher) "teaching on-line for the first time because she has to" is doing an inferior job. That is an unfair assumption. If a teacher makes the assessment, after a period of teaching by both methods, that there are things that you cannot do on-line that are routinely done in person, or that are done better, then that is their professional assessment.

As I noted in my earlier post, my teacher says her students are doing well with online lessons. I expect my summer lessons will continue to be on-line, going forward. Keystring, it's not clear to me whether you are currently (recognizing the pandemic interruption) or recently have taken in person piano lessons. You are in a location which should provide a good selection of teachers.
Stubbie, you misunderstood what I wrote. I was reflecting what you yourself wrote, and that is also the assessment my own teacher and I make. There are things a teacher can do in person that cannot be done as well on-line. I did not write anything about an "inferior JOB". I wrote that there are things where the experience will be inferior to what you can do otherwise. As a couple of examples, when he teaches his students in the studio, my teacher can walk around and see where they are holding tension. He might be able to touch a tense shoulder for the student to relax. He can watch, at the same time, when the student uses pedal, that both the hands and feet are moving properly. I never had a camera pointing at my feet, and while I was creating the right sound, because that part COULD be taught, I was not moving in a good way - pressing way too far down and up each time, and the feet could have been angled better. This was inferior to what he could have done with me - and what I could have achieved as a student - had we been in the same room.

In every circumstance, whatever job you are doing, there are situations where you can do some things less well, or better, than others, due to those circumstances.

Another few examples. In in-studio lessons he can point to a spot on the page, or quickly show something. On camera, it can be a game of charades - you can name a measure number, but then it's "B". "Did you say B, or D, or E?" it takes 3 times as long. The experience is inferior to what can be done in person. 2) When we were on Skype, suddenly the system changed and any sustained sound was cut into staccato. So he had to wait for me to produce a recording, to find out whether my pedal choices. A whole note went "blip". Instead of knowing instantly whether I had it right, we lost hours where I created a recording, he got the recording, listened to it, and I got an e-mail, "Yes you have it." This is inferior. What you CAN DO is inferior to what you can do in in-studio lessons.

Do you understand now what I was saying?

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Peter Hontaru #2988823 06/07/20 05:10 PM
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Here is what you yourself wrote.
Quote
In my own short experience with online lessons, I find them adequate but not superior to in-person. My teacher has made the comment that her students are doing well with online lessons during the pandemic (more time to practice, for sure). She finds online adequate for teaching rhythm, notes, dynamics (somewhat), but not for tone production or pedaling, and limited for dynamics.

"adequate but not superior". Your teacher found that there are some things she cannot do as well in this medium compared to what she can do in person. I was saying the same thing. Some parts of the experience will be inferior to what you can achieve in other circumstances.

I'm assuming that both you and your teacher would prefer to get back in-studio, and that you have good reason for that. Am I wrong?

Re: Online lessons - my experience + tip contributions
Sam S #2989490 06/09/20 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Ay9293
I had 'in person' lessons for 1.5 years now I have online lessons from the same teacher. Truthfully, I prefer the online lessons for a few reasons:
1- minimally cheaper although this is not a major factor
2- I get to play on my own piano- this may just be me but I find I know my own piano better than my teacher's thus my playing sounds nicer
3- I am not really an anxious person but having someone peer over my shoulder leads to me making more mistakes, despite having lessons for 1.5 years
4- No travelling to the teacher (not far only 10-20 mins by car), but I always like to leave a bit of time just in case of traffic
5- It gives me the option of having teachers worldwide if I wanted, which opens the options to it being of it being more cost effective or an increase in quality of teaching

Very good points, thank you for contributing. I am glad to see a lot of common points here.




Originally Posted by sinophilia
Congratulations in getting so many people to comment on your video and engage in a constructive discussion! I don't care about lessons, not even online ones, so I can't add anything to that - I'll just say well done!

Thank you so much, I really appreciate your message smile I love that although fairly small, my community is fairly engaged when I make videos like that and contribute with their experiences. This is why I created the channel in the first place.

Also, think you'll enjoy to hear that I started learning Italian since the lockdown started and parlo un po' d'italiano adesso. Really enjoying it too smile It's hard to actually talk in it myself, but I got to a point where I understand most of what would be said in a tv show, for example (speaking another latin language definitely helps here).


Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Stubbie
In my own short experience with online lessons, I find them adequate but not superior to in-person. My teacher has made the comment that her students are doing well with online lessons during the pandemic (more time to practice, for sure). She finds online adequate for teaching rhythm, notes, dynamics (somewhat), but not for tone production or pedaling, and limited for dynamics.
I was super busy when I saw this and wanted to give some thoughts, Stubbie.

What I'm understanding is that you've been taking in-person lessons with a good teacher, and now due to the pandemic you are studying on-line with the same teacher, who is probably teaching on-line for the first time because she has to. Clearly the on-line will be inferior to the alternative. You have to get a broader picture. The two variables are a) what is available to the student otherwise, b) how the on-line teaching is done. I've had a chance to see a lot of both. In no particular order:

I cut your message to not make my own post very hard to read but highly agree with what you said, PARTICULARLY the availability of a teacher locally. It's all about balancing the advantanges with the disadvantages and the circumstances of the student.

Originally Posted by Sam S
I will be starting online lessons next week, with the teacher I study with during Summerkeys. I have taken lessons with him every summer for the last 9 summers. Usually we will do 3 lessons a week for just one or two weeks, so this will be a very different experience for the lessons, since I have never taken weekly lessons from him before. Usually for Summerkeys I work for months on a few pieces, and when I show up at the music camp I am ready to play them at a decent level - that's very different from a normal lesson.

We are going to do Zoom - I've experimented with it for my local music group with mixed results.

Awesome to hear, Sam! Hope they go well smile

I personally use Skype, but have been participating in online recitals on Zoom with the group I normally do live recitals with in Cambridge and it worked great (particularly when there's an audience of 60+ people.


Jan '18 - Started playing
Nov '18 - Grade 3 (d)
Nov '19 - Grade 5 (p)

??? '20 - Grade 6

If you'd like to follow my progress, recitals, experiences, check out my YouTube channel
https://www.youtube.com/PeterHontaru

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