English composer, Malcolm Arnold once said “Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.” Combined with Skype, the communication possibilities are truly endless — take a look at our recent posts about blues harp harmonica and violin lessons over Skype, for example.
Today we have the honor of featuring award-winning composer Stephanie Ann Boyd, who kindly agreed to share her Skype story and how our technology has helped her scale her career to a global level.
You mentioned that Skype is an integral part of your work—in what way?
I use skype to teach composition lessons to students of all ages around the world. Currently I have students in the US, Canada, and South Africa. Skype has proven to be an incredible format to teach music composition in: we are face to face at all times without any clunky desks between us, we can screen share when students have questions about the software they are using, which allows me to efficiently help them troubleshoot — and we can exchange documents within seconds.
Skype helps me connect with and nurture the talent of students no matter where either of us are at any given time in the world. This also means that, as I travel for concerts of my own music, it doesn’t disrupt my students’ lesson schedules. Usually composers can’t have it both ways (consistent teaching schedule and attending all concerts of their music), but with Skype, I can and I do.
Stephanie teaching one of her students in Canada over Skype
How has Skype helped you expand your career to a global level?
I have been using Skype as a way to connect with musicians from anywhere in the world who are interested in playing my music. For example, this year I’ve been putting together a co-commission called the 50 State Sonata Project, where one violinist in each of the 50 US States works with me on a new sonata for violin and piano. This year each of these 50 violinists will perform the piece in their respective State.
We’ve been using Skype for one-on-one meetings to workshop the piece as I’ve been writing it. Imagine that, meeting “strangers” for the first time via Skype and then quickly getting to a point where we are working on a piece of music together. I’ve been connecting with all of these States (many for the first time), and I didn’t even leave the warmth of my living room to do it.
A project of this scope couldn’t have been done 10 or 15 years ago. I really believe that there’s never been a better time to be a classical music composer, and Skype is one of the technologies that has enabled and proved this belief’s truth. Next year I’ll be working with 50 violinists from around the world on a second sonata. I can’t wait!
Any memorable Skype moments?
The first time I called one of my students over Skype in South Africa I almost cried. Sound is a big thing in my life – I’m a composer! – so knowing that I was hearing sound and experiencing this with someone from across the world, in real time, was a profound experience.
Favorite Skype feature?
The screen share has made troubleshooting a breeze: if a student has a question regarding how to do something in their music notation software, chances are I’ll know the answer and be able to show them how to do it on my screen. So much more efficient than trying to explain it verbally.
Does teaching composition over Skype differ greatly from teaching it in person?
To be honest, it often feels more efficient to teach over Skype. We don’t have to print out the music, no peering over each other’s shoulders to see one copy of music. And any time I reference a piece of music that I want my student to look at, or listen to, I can pull that recording up, or immediately send them the score. These processes help me be more efficient in my teaching and help us spend more time talking about music.
Also, it helps me connect with students around the world — this singlehandedly allows me to positively impact the lives of people outside the confines of the city I live in. That’s tremendously valuable to me — I want to be an advocate for them and help as many young composers as possible.
For more information about Stephanie Ann Boyd’s composition classes, check out her website. And to make sure you have all of our latest features, please head over to our website to download the most recent version of Skype on all your devices.
And for now, what better way to wrap up this musical post than with Stephanie’s biggest work to date: her violin concerto, Sybil.