My oldest daughter is in fifth grade, and when it came time to scheduling a music class, she had a choice: choir or band.
Much to my delight, she chose the latter, if only because of my love for jazz. I was more than happy to support the next John Coltrane. She actually picked band and the saxophone because several of her cousins were active in their marching bands.
No pressure from Dad.
She picked up the saxophone, and the “music” began. Every parent knows the sound. The squeal from the horn sounds as if someone is tugging an elephant’s trunk.
For the first few weeks, she was practicing less and less, but she claimed she was still interested. When I dug a little further, I found out she was forgetting her lesson book at school each day.
Enter social media. More specifically, enter social media video.
Truth be told, I started with Twitter and did a quick hashtag search of #learnsaxophone. Some of the first tweets were old (January, 2015). But they included links to saxhub.com, a subscription site with step-by-step instructions and instructional videos. The sample videos are great, but I wasn’t ready to commit $20 per month for my newbie.
Next I turned to Google and YouTube. Actually, I probably should have started with YouTube.
There’s a certain level of cachet that comes with YouTube for this new generation. My kids make crude videos of stuffed animals doing weird things. They do with the expectation that I will post them to YouTube.
When my wife talks about something she watched on YouTube, and the kids are nearby, it’s like watching startled meerkats pop their heads up to investigate.
My oldest children often ask what it would take to be a “YouTuber,” and “can I major in YouTube at your college?” (Note: my answer is always yes, but I always add a little caveat about needing to be good writers, and to learn math and coding).
They’re already using YouTube to learn about their favorite video games and to be entertained for hours watching “Tube Heroes” such as TDM or CaptainSparklez build amazing worlds in Minecraft.
My budding saxophonist perked up when I introduced the idea of using YouTube to learn how to play, especially on days when she leaves the lesson book behind. Don’t worry, music teachers. I was clear that she needed to have the lesson book at home to follow her teacher’s instructions, but that maybe YouTube videos could be a temporary fix.
Five minutes after I gave my YouTube tip, my iPad was missing and I heard someone tugging the elephant’s trunk. She was watching a guide for beginning saxophone.
We found many other videos. Some were old, but certainly informative.
About a week later, she was on our back deck, flowing through scales with only an occasional squeak.
John Coltrane would be proud.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.