When Blue Raven Music Studios in Lincoln opened its doors in March of 2009, co-owners Matt and Jenny Richardson never considered offering online instrument and vocal lessons.
In the summer of 2020, everything changed when their services went virtual for several months because of COVID-19.
According to Jenny Richardson, the adjustment to an online learning environment was not ideal for everyone.
“At first, we had to deal with the loss of some students,” she said.
Matt Richardson said guitar lessons are often the most efficient type of video lesson. However, he said online lessons are different from in-person lessons because of the sound lag of all computers and mobile devices.
“What you do lose though is the ability to play with the student in real time. You can play, and they can play, but you can’t really play together, not really.” he said.
The Richardsons said in July of 2020, the studio began implementing a combination of video and in-person classes.
“With a lot of our lesson inquiries that have come in since the pandemic, most of the new students don’t want online lessons,” Jenny Richardson said.
The co-owners said video lessons can be particularly challenging for students, ages 5-9, who have naturally short attention spans. They said recently the studio has been slowly increasing the number of in-person lessons, with masks worn at all times and social distancing.
Matt Richardson said many students who do not attend in-person school during the day cherish their regularly scheduled in-person sessions. He said the studio provides a sense of normalcy to a young violin student.
“The only in-person contact and outside activity she has is coming in to meet me with a mask on to do this lesson,” he said. “She looks forward to this every week because she gets to leave the house and go somewhere.”
Both owners said that in-person classes are simpler to teach, but their experiences with online instruction has broadened their horizons.
“It does open doors to new possibilities that we hadn’t considered, despite all the hardships that come along with it,” Matt Richardson said.
Another element of the studio that has changed as a result of social distancing is the alteration of live performances.
Pre-pandemic, the studio’s folk classes would teach students how to perform as a group with the goal of busking, performing on the street for tips, at the Sunday farmers’ market at college view, or playing at a local coffee shop. Now, Jenny Richardson said they focus on teaching students how to record music, as well as how to direct their own music videos.
As husband and wife, co-owners, and bandmates, the Richardsons said they design their journey through the pandemic as a team.
“When you choose a lifestyle like we have, you’re trying to create your own reality. It takes a lot of work and it’s hard,” Matt Richardson said. “When you’re running your own business, you can always be thinking of the next thing you should be doing.”
“We set our own rules,” Jenny Richardson said.