Thursday, August 22, 2013

{Crew Review} MacPhail Online Music Lessons


MacPhail Music logo photo McPhailmusiclogo_zps8577c152.jpg

You know you are not in the 1900s when you can Skype with a music teacher half way across the country and s/he can comment on the correct finger placement on your trumpet’s valves and can comment, “Next lesson, it would be better if you had a music stand so you are not looking down to the floor.”

MacPhail Center for Music has harnessed all this great technology we are surrounded by and is making inroads to bring quality music instruction to anyplace that can connect to the web.

For the past month, Luke has been blessed to continue his music instruction with MacPhail Center for Music, an established and large music program in the Twin Cities area. Started in 1907 by William MacPhail, an original member of the Minneapolis Symphony, his violin school has grown to serve more than 5,000 music students in all settings (you can read the history here).


Luke working on his surprise for Mr. Bergeron, his band teacher (he doesn’t quite hit the high note, but shortly after I took this video, Luke had his lesson with Josh and was able to get it).

This summer we were blessed to review MacPhail’s individual instruction for K-12 homeschool students.  This set of four 30-minute lessons were discounted 25% for new students for a total price of $111.  Pricing for continuing the program with their Daytime Flex Packs for Live Online Lessons  includes a set of 8 lessons in a 18 week semester for the standard pricing of $37 per 30-minute lesson (lessons need to occur between 9am – 3pm).

How This Worked for Us.  We were contacted by MacPhail to do an equipment check via Skype before our trumpet teacher was assigned to us.  Now, I must admit that I’m not all that familiar with Skype, so I did have a few learning curves (like forgetting to click that I was “online” so the instructor could message and call me. duh), but overall the start up process was painless.

Our instructor, Josh, was flexible with our summer schedule and worked with me to fit our lessons in.  MacPhail does not have an online system to sign up for lessons – they just use email back and forth.


OK, so let’s get to the lessons.  Josh was surprised and happy that Luke already had a good knowledge of how to play the trumpet, and he worked with us to meet our needs awhile adapting his traditional program.  Luke really wants to surprise his trumpet teacher with a version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” when his lessons start this fall, and Josh was able to use this song to help teach Luke to play it by ear.  I love that Luke had this experience, because he usually learns his songs with sheet music.  I’m not opposed to sheet music, but I am happy that Josh guided him and helped him think in terms of listening to himself play and figuring out notes from that.


Josh was very generous with his time, and he would email extra practice songs to me for Luke to practice.  Luke really enjoyed his lessons with Josh, and worked hard during the summer to make Josh proud!

My recommendations & thoughts:  I think this is  a great service, and I’m happy with the quality that can be had with Skype.  I think the quality of instruction was great – Josh was encouraging and positive while providing some great hints and pointers to Luke as he progresses with the trumpet.

My only concern is the price.  I’ll admit to a bit of sticker shock with the per-lesson prices.  $37 seems high for lessons in our area (admittedly, I haven’t looked around, but we’ve taken other instruments for $20-$25 per 30-minute lesson), but I love that MacPhail offers lessons for a large variety of instruments.  And, your student will be taking lessons from instructors at a premier Midwestern institution.

Others members of The Crew were invited to try out music lessons on a variety of other instruments.  To get their opinion, click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


All prices are accurate as of blog posting.

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