Why online jazz piano classes are better than traditional lessons.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. About online learning
2. How to access (scroll down)
3. Setup tips (scroll way down)

1. About online lessons

How are online lessons similar/different from traditional studio lessons?
For most people, the words piano lesson brings up the traditional image of a teacher and student in the same room. That's still a great way to learn the basics on the front end and the finer nuances of performing on the other end. But for those who can already play at and intermediate level or above, online group lessons are the best way to learn jazz piano.
Here’s why:

  • Access – Unless you live in a major city, good jazz piano teachers are unavailable.

  • Wires, not tires - This remote teacher comes right to your screen so no need to drive to a lesson.

  • Replay videos - Lessons can be reviewed over and over for retention and mastery.

  • Enhanced technology - I present two camera angles so you see my face, my fingers on the piano keys, colored notes on a virtual keyboard, instantly notated music examples, and screen shares of musical examples.

  • Multiple learning modes - My classes include highly detailed PDF handouts that are constantly updated for visual learners and precise backing tracks for aural learners.

  • Learning Community - Interaction with others both during the lessons and especially in our private Facebook groups provides very helpful inspiration and encouragement.

Are these really just pre-recorded videos?
Nope. These are live interactive group lessons.

Why not just make pre-recorded video classes?
Learning to improvise involves a lot more than just transferring knowledge. It's also about receiving individualized coaching and support that is not possible without student/teacher interaction. Imagine someone who is lost calls you for directions without being able to describe their current location. All you can do is explain the entire right with myriad "turn right, turn left" directions. This is made more complicated since there are many different routes from A to B. But if you know their location on a road you've long traveled, you can point them in the right direction. It's the same with musical improvisation. if I don't observe where you are on your creative music making journey, I cannot tell you where to go next.

Do I have to appear on screen?
Nope but it's preferred. You can choose whether to watch the lessons actively on camera or passively out of view. I encourage active participation on screen in at least some lessons to ask questions because it enables you to get to know the other students, share your challenges and celebrate your successes but there's never any pressure to play (if you tell me ahead of time, I won't even ask). Your facial expressions, thumbs up, head nods, etc. improves my teaching, and makes it less lonely for everyone.

What level of pianist do I need to be?
All sessions are geared toward adult intermediate to advanced “recovering classical pianists.” No prior experience with jazz is required but you should know how to play major and minor scales in a couple of keys, read moderately well, and be able to construct 7th chords even if you can’t play them on demand. Upon registration, you’ll receive a link to a private “Pop-Jazz Piano Essentials” reference video to review some of the theory, terminology, and creative concepts I often refer to in my teaching. I also make a point of providing several options of various ability levels in my assignments so you can choose what's right for you technically.

I enrolled in your very first online class and have enrolled every time you’ve started a new session.. Initially, I thought that after three or four 8 Lesson sessions, your ability to “wow” me would start to sharply decline. Instead, the longer I study with you, the more the “wow factor” increases as I make connections between what I’ve learned in previous courses and the current one.
— Jan
Ursula is a lifelong learner
I can’t imagine piano teaching without the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest jazz teachers! Most players can’t communicate! You have a gift to give to the world.

As a returning student, will there be enough that's new for me?
All of my classes include reviews of essential jazz theory and exercises. To keep it interesting for returning students, I constantly vary the ways I assign scales and chord drills. Each new class topic and associated tunes provides opportunities to practice both new and previously-learned creative concepts. I also make a point of providing several options of various levels in my assignments so you can choose what's right for you technically.

Why should I pay for lessons when I can watch free YouTube tutorials?
Most online how-to videos fall into a couple of categories:

1. Free "lite" lessons designed to advertise a pre-recorded course by knowledgeable. teachers.
2. Shares by intermediate players who, while admirably eager to share their latest "look what I can do," are nevertheless unseasoned teachers, typically lack practical performance experience, and often lack a deep knowledge of music theory.
3. Isolated useful tips by experts. So, while it's possible (with enough hours of searching online) to garner a few disconnected keyboard improvisation tips for free, people still struggle on their own. However, if they study with a live teacher who is actually invested in their success and holds them somewhat accountable, they get logically sequenced instruction and tend to take the learning more seriously.

Three Ways to Learn Jazz.png

How much does it cost?
See current class offerings, tuitions, and discounts here.

What does my tuition pay for?

  • My teaching - time spent in the actual lesson and daily feedback on practice videos in our private Facebook group.

  • Prep time - Detailed lesson plans, assignments, and handout that include musical examples all take considerable time.

  • Advertising - You found the lessons because our marketing investment somehow reached you.

  • Administrative assistance - Tonya creates graphics and advertisements, monitors lessons, and advises on business decisions.

  • Credit card processing fees - PayPal and Stripe both take a bit out of your payment.

  • Overhead - fast internet connection, cameras, microphones, photo backdrops, software/apps, devices and keyboards to maintain.

Can I pay in installments?
Yes. We offer a recurring payment plan so you can pay as you go. See the main online classes page for details

What is your refund policy?
Since there is no way to take back access links or resources once they are sent to a registered student, no refunds can be offered for online group lessons.

Suzanne discusses her online jazz piano class.

I am REALLY enjoying the Pop/Jazz class! It is exactly what I was hoping for, and has already given me some tools to get outside of the improvisational rut that I was stuck in.
— Suzanne (Germany)
Studying with you has taught me not only how important it is to teach our students to read AND to improvise and play by ear but it is so much fun in the moment and emotionally satisfying long term for adults as well as children.
— Carolmae (OH)

What if I miss a lesson or fall behind?
I teach pithy lessons with lots of options to accommodate various abilities, interest levels, and schedules. You are welcome to pick and choose what to practice and what to put aside. These are your lessons. Do what works best for you. Replay videos of every lesson are available for a limited time on private YouTube links provided to participants to review or catch up. 

When and why do replay videos expire?
Replay videos expire one year after the start of a course. Replays are offered as perk/convenience and are not intended to substitute for live lessons. There are a number of practical reasons why they expire including protecting students' privacy, dissuading prospective students from enrolling in live lessons, and controlling leakage since the longer videos are out there, the more often they get passed around and reposted. Philosophically, I strongly believe that real learning happens by teaching real people in real time. It's a conversation between teacher and student that can't be just one way on a video. Lastly, an end date encourages accountability. In the words of one student, "The replay videos do make us go back and practice. I have all of the CD's that [another teacher] made....and truth is......I need to go back and look at them again......but nothing to "make" me do it right now. With online lessons expiring....I have been "made" to practice."

Andrea talks about her online jazz piano class.

These lessons are GOLD to me. I can’t thank you enough for putting this together for us.
— Andrea (MN)
Happy jazz piano student
“I’m REALLY enjoying the chance to stretch my playing abilities in this way and it’s so exciting to be a student again...it’s not only been great for my playing, but my teaching too!”
— Anna J.

2. How to access

Passive Viewers

  • On the day of the lesson, you will receive an email with a link to view the live stream on YouTube. You will see me and a few active students but we won’t see or hear you.

  • If you want to comment and be part of the instruction on YouTube while watching a live class, you need a Gmail account. If you want to be a viewer with no chat, you do not need a Gmail account.

  • If you miss a lesson, you can watch it later on YouTube.

 Position your device like this to show face and hands.

Position your device like this to show face and hands.

Active Participants

When it’s your turn to be an “active participant,” your instructions are a bit different.

  • To be an active participant, you will need a Google account.

  • The platform is Google Hangouts, which works best on the Google Chrome browser. Other browsers require a plug-in.

  • I’ll send you an invite to the hangout 15 – 30 minutes before the lesson.

  • You need a good internet connection and a camera enabled device. Here are the system requirements if you want to get all technical but it usually just works for most people.

  • Active participants should position their device diagonally off to the side to show both face and hands.

  • Headphones are recommended.

If I ask you to be an active participant, please don’t hesitate. It’s important because it makes the lessons “live.” I promise not to put you on the spot or embarrass you in any way. If you have questions about something I ask you to do, you can bet that other viewers are wondering the same thing.

Tip: If you are bothered by the video display jumping to whatever person is talking, you can easily stop (and restart) this by simply setting the focus (clicking) on any person’s picture in the list at the bottom of the screen in the hangout.  To go back to the auto-switching, click on the same person again from the visual list of attendees at the bottom, or click on anyone twice — once to set focus, and again to release the focus!

Vashti Summervill recording an original.

The material and inspiration I received from your classes helped me write several songs. I am very grateful!
— Vashti (ID)
For me, this is the only way to take piano lessons! With the replay option and being able to stop and go back again....just so helpful. And on top of it, being able to speak to you at anytime on Facebook and get questions answered......just perfect! Thanks again! Lessons with you are a dream come true!
— Carole

3. Setup Tips

Please follow these guidelines for the best experience.

Prepare your browser – The Google Hangouts platform I use, works best with the Google Chrome browser. You can download it here:
Other browsers: If you’d rather not use Chrome, install the latest version of the Google Hangouts browser plugin before you connect here: https://www.google.com/tools/dlpage/hangoutplugin

Check your connection –  Streaming video is very demanding on your Internet connection. If you are on Wi-Fi, the closer you are to the router, the better. A direct Ethernet connection is usually more reliable than Wi-Fi.

Reduce demand – Encourage those around you who are on the same connection to take a break from the internet or, at least, refrain from downloading large files or streaming video (this includes Netflix and Xbox Live) during the duration of the lesson.

Close unnecessary programs – Close down all software, apps and browser tabs on your device, except what you need to view the lesson. This includes online storage programs that sync in the background such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

Disconnected? – If you can’t see and hear me or you get bounced from a lesson for any reason, you can just rejoin using the same link you received in your invitation.


If you experience problems:

On a computer: 
1. Open an incognito or private window and paste in the access link.
On the recommended Chrome browser, it is under File in upper left corner.
2. Clear the cache and cookies.
On the recommended Chrome browser, go to Settings (3 vertical dots in upper right corner)>Advanced (bottom of page)>Privacy and security>Clear browsing data

On iPhone or iPad Hangouts app
1. Delete and reinstall the Hangouts app.
OR if you don't not use the Hangouts app:
A. To clear Safari cache, do the following:
Open Settings
Scroll down to Safari
Select Clear History and Website Data
For Chrome, follow these steps:

B. For Chrome, follow these steps:
Open the app
Go to Options > Settings
Tap Privacy
Tap Clear Browsing Data
Select the browsing data you want to delete (cookies, history, cached images and files) and tap Clear Browsing Data

Get a Google account
Having a Google account and a gmail login is recommended but not required to participate in hangouts. If you have a gmail account, please send me your gmail address to replace the one I currently use to send access link.

Keep in mind that what we are doing is cutting edge technology involving a whole range of systems from local internet providers to Google's servers.  Local ISPs can have updates and problems for example when updating or even raining really hard. Problem just happen sometimes.