I have a 10 year old nephew, Devin, who is incredibly musical. He wants to play guitar. I love showing him stuff when we can get together, which is not often enough to help him learn the instrument. That’s why when I met Claire Cunningham and Ashford Tucker at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) conference this summer I was delighted.
Lessonface, the brainchild of Claire and Ashford, solved a problem for me. Since my niece is too busy to drive Devin to a weekly guitar lesson, and we had been unable to find the right teacher to come to their house, Lessonface was able to solve the problem through an easy to use high speed online video conferencing platform. Now Devin has a world class teacher beamed into his home every week. Devin called me up right after his first lesson and said, “Uncle Jaimie, Ian showed me how to play these power chords that I’ve been struggling with for weeks. Now I can finally play it. I love you Uncle Jaimie.” How cool is that?
I was able to catch up with Claire on a recent conversation and after a few minutes of chatting, I realized she was special. And when I learned she had an MBA from MIT, she had my complete attention.
It seems that being an entrepreneur was in Claire’s blood from a very early age. Claire started her first business at the tender age of 8 and sold her first company at 25. She is very smart. And very caring. At the Media Lab at MIT, she was smitten by educational technology. She was busy exploring music App ideas, and soon came to the realization that nothing substitutes having a caring teacher to inspire you. Claire understood that students want to learn from a teacher, not an APP. After all, an APP doesn’t care about you. Around the same time, Ashford came upon the concept of Skype lessons, and suggested to a touring guitarist friend to assemble a group of teachers together to offer lessons. Finding no takers, he mentioned it to Claire, whose entrepreneurial engine started up. In 2013 Lessonface was born.
Three quarters of Lessonface students, are based in the U.S. and 10% in Canada, so this is a North American centric model. She has lots of guitar players, singers, percussionists, and band and orchestral instrument players. Their ages are really broad and range from 8-9 year old youngsters up to students in their 70’s and 80’s.
Having taught guitar the old fashioned way for many years, I asked Claire if there was an advantage to going video as opposed to being with someone in the flesh. She felt that young children especially really take to the screen.
Claire reminded me that Lessonface is not a brightly colored app where the child is bewitched by hi res video graphics for hours- you do need some attention span and the ability to focus for 30 minutes. It does take some maturity.
I asked if she makes recommendations trying to match the right personality to the child. And she aced it. She recommended Ian McCullogh, an animated guitarist living in LA who has already given Devin three guitar lessons. And Ian is also willing to give me feedback on Devin’s progress. The Lessonface.com website, however, provides the ability to pick your own teacher based on instrument or musical requirement, schedule, price range, etc.
For adults or retirees who want to jump start or reignite their musical pursuit – the convenience and flexibility of the lessons are really appreciated. They can pick up a lesson when they have time and not get bogged down to the same date and time each week. All in the comfort of their own home – no driving required!
Claire tells me that the video technology is high quality and it is simple for the student to use. My 10 year old nephew was able to connect without parental help. All the student needs is an internet connection and a webcam on their computer or tablet device so the lesson is interactive. Claire is upbeat about her success to date. With over 1,000 students on the platform, students continue to book lessons and make music!
A lot has changed since I took my first guitar lesson…