How did a music school in Walgau become one of the first digital music schools?
Since Austria started the lockdowns quite early and strictly, music school director Christian Mathis was one of the first to contact us. He was looking for a plan B in case of canceled lessons in presence. Thats how the exchange between Berlin and Walgau began. The questions, “How can I actually teach music online?” and “Is there an easy to use solution for online music lessons?” needed an answer quickly. Because at that time, music School Walgau was not a digital music school, yet.
In November 2020, the digitization of music school Walgau started with the test phase of the SIRIUS beta version. Almost all teachers and students checked out how to exchange musically online. Even though the version was still imperfect, SIRIUS passed the test compared to other sound-optimized video conferencing systems.
SIRIUS improved the platform for online music lessons with optimized sound quality, during this time.
So here is a big thank-you to all the Walgau musicians for their flexibility and patience, during the beta phase. 🙏Although the sound quality was already optimized, the peer-to-peer connection wasn’t quite on point, yet. Some sessions did not really run smoothly until the end of January 2021. As soon as the first official and stable SIRIUS version was launched there was no holding back on ambitious online teaching, anymore.
Just a few weeks after the official launch, the local and as of now digital music school Walgau acquired licenses for all teachers. From then on music lessons were always to be held.
SIRIUS is proud to have such a close and progressive partner in the middle of the Alps.
In many SIRIUS meetings with Christian Mathis, we not only conducted the following interview, but also collected ideas for a short film. Our warmest Berliner greetings go out to Walgau: to lively Moritz, inspiring Clemens, ambitious Andrea and studious Greta!
You guys are the heroes of online teaching in the Alps!
with Christian Mathis,
director of Music School Walgau
Please introduce yourself briefly and describe your role at Music School in Walgau, Austria.
My name is Christian Mathis. I am a clarinetist and conductor. I was already a teacher at the music school Walgau for many years before I became the music school director in 2015. On the one hand, I am the girl-for-everything as far as making-it-happen and implementation. On the other hand, it is due to this role that I am also the pioneer and enabler for the school’s innovative range and development of further creative ideas.
What makes your music school special?
How did it evolve into a digital music school?
We are a “traveling school” – we go to our students.
Located regionally, but geographically rather spread out than local, we have been a very flexible school since our founding in 1977. It is important to us to be contemporary and innovative in our decisions and actions. — In fact, some even call us “trendy”, simply because we have so quickly become the “digital music school in Walgau”. (laughs)
Our range of courses covers a very wide spectrum from EM (elementary music-making), via organ lessons, to band practice — we offer it all! Part of the reason why the repertoire is so large is that we have a great age span among the students and teachers. From traditional local instruments, which are deeply rooted in our region, to ambitious classical music lessons, which are also of interest to many age groups.
In fact, we have 1350 students who are taught by 43 teachers.
In presence, we teach in 50 classrooms at 11 locations,
which is all organized from 1 office.
Due to our digitization, some lessons are now even more de-centralized.
Thus, teachers and students connect online directly from “living room to music room”. So we are not only a “travelling school”, but also a real digital music school — even though we love giving lessons in presence and of course giving and listening to concerts.
What were the major challenges at your music school in terms of digitalization?
The biggest challenge was the different network infrastructure. In some parts of the valley, the network is still under construction – which is why the internet connection is weaker, there. But thank to the openness of our teachers and students, we teach from the valley sole at 500 meters altitude to 1100 meters altitude, on the mountain.
Fortunately, most of the students live in the valley. So we rarely have infrastructural problems.
It was a huge problem, when we so abruptly could no longer teach in person, anymore. But there was a great deal of willingness to give lessons online, immediately — from everyone. That was great!
What does online music teaching allow you?
The essence is covered, thanks to online lessons. The musical exchange just somehow always finds its way! Even in quarantine or with mild illnesses, musical contact takes place.
Lessons are cancelled much less.
The lessons are very diverse. Helpful technical tools, such as metronome & tuner and chat function & screen share can be smoothly integrated into the lessons. This is sometimes easier than during lessons in presence. Basically, everything is available, even a video can be integrated. Online lessons are always full of inspiration and lightness.
It’s just fun.
What is the best part of SIRIUS?
The best thing is the SIRIUS-sound quality! There is a huge difference compared to traditional video conferencing systems.
For me as a music school director, especially at the beginning, it was very important, that I could get hold of someone in service support who could help me quickly and personally. That was just great — so we as a music school became savvy online teaching pros, within a very short time.
What is your view of the future of music lessons?
I assume that there will be a serious market for online music lessons, simply because it really is practicable with sound-optimized tools like SIRIUS.
The focus of music school Walgau is still on face-to-face lessons in presence. But online lessons are really important sessions for us, for example in quarantines, with a casted leg, heavy snowfall, students’ stays abroad, etc… It is important for us as teachers to stay in touch, to continue working on the progress of music making, to motivate and inspire to practice. Therefore, we are definitely the digital music school in Walgau, which nevertheless primarily relies on teaching in presence.
Mid-term, I can already imagine establishing online try-out lessons, counseling sessions or small theory circles.
Why not? It’s so simple and flexible — and effective.
Thank you very much, dear Christian!
Website of Music School in Walgau.