Technology has democratised music, and anyone with a laptop can now release a record. But, as successful musicians will attest, it takes far more than just technology to make great music. It takes knowledge, experience, and skill, earned through passion and practice.
The traditional approach to teaching music is often tied to legacy music conventions which can be costly and dogmatic. Coupled with practical constraints that limit the genres and instruments, like lesson time, and available teachers at schools, this approach has resulted in a ‘pyramid-shaped’ situation in which we learn music during our primary school years.
The problem, however, is that few ever progress right through to a satisfactory level or into university-level music institutions or went on to work as musicians.
While current online music education courses have solved the accessibility problem, it is often at the expense of quality due to the simplified, overly gamified linear learning methods, in a trade-off that puts online music students at a distinct disadvantage, cutting them of from their real growing potential.
A new project spearheaded by celebrated musicians and educators Rus Nerwich and Hein Van de Geyn, promises to marry the rigour and quality of traditional music education with the accessibility, scalability, and flexibility of modern online digital offerings.
Designed to overcome the shortcomings of both traditional music teaching and existing modern online options, The eAr Academy brings robust music education firmly into the fourth industrial revolution with immersive, self-guided, virtual courses grounded in time-tested pedagogy and musical theory.
“Our novel methodology will enrich more lives with music by embracing the best of both tradition and tech,” says founder Rus Nerwich.
The website consists of carefully sculpted and refined content modules developed on a curriculum following leading global music learning institutions and are organised around seven key facets of learning music: Tunes, etudes, exercises, reading, improvisation, hearing, and theory.
Rather than being siloed and linear, these facets are integrated and intertwined, presented in an online ‘playground’ with a circular interface that encourages organic self-guided exploration.
“All the material is taught in an open-ended learning environment designed to stimulate curiosity, passion, and playfulness, plus allowing the students the freedom to follow their own individual preferred learning path” Nerwich says.
The short, on-demand training includes video lessons presented by expert instructors, audio backing tracks and songs to study, as well as traditional sheet music. These are packaged in flexible interconnected modules, allowing students to learn at their own pace, fitting their music training around other commitments.
At a moment when South Africa’s music industry is thriving, the eAr Academy timeously brings a disruptive, highly scalable solution for music education for both schools and individuals, potentially making high-quality music education accessible to the average South African for the first time.
“For R350 per month – less than the cost of a single in-person lesson – students can enjoy unlimited access to the academy’s courses on six instruments – guitar, electric bass, piano, drums, trumpet and alto saxophone, across a range of styles like pop, rock, reggae, latin, jazz, blues, and folk, from the comfort of their home or school,” explains Nerwich.
He adds that the Academy’s learning management system also integrates seamlessly into schools’ existing management systems, capacitating teachers and potentially bringing superior musical training – previously only available to a fortunate minority – to all young South Africans.
“The eAr Academy represents a major milestone for South Africa’s music industry. Its innovative approach brings a level of depth and personalisation unlike anything else in the market, providing young aspiring musicians with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed,” points out Nerwich.
In a land bursting with talent, the democratisation of high-quality music education heralds a vibrant new era for our music scene, and we are excited to see where these exciting new avenues lead.