New age for music instruction in North Sanich

Peninsula Academy of Music Arts enters the web era for lessons.

Voice students Kristel Toribio

Since 2001, the Peninsula Academy of Music Arts has brought music into the lives of students young and old and expanded over the years to keep pace with demand.

Today, the academy’s founder and his son, Myles, are looking to reach even more people by branching out with lessons on the Internet.

Owner Lloyd English says he and Myles launched the first version of their online guitar instruction videos on November 10.

Inside PAMA’s Mill Street location in North Saanich, they have a studio set up to record music and video. Three cameras focus in on an instructor — they use eight different people in the videos — as they demonstrate the skills needed to play the guitar. The site (myguitarpal.com), English said, is working on providing more than 800 six to 10-minute videos that they will post to their subscription-only website.

“There are lots of these kinds of sites,” he said, when asked about the prevalence of music instruction videos online. “However, there are only two other companies providing quality content and they’re down in the States. So that’s what we’re taking on.”

He said their focus with the new online company is education and learning, to help share “the musical language.”

The site has taken English, Myles, Lloyd’s wife Diane and their instructors and technical crew a year-and-a-half to establish. Already, they’re looking to branch out to offer ukulele lessons online.

“We’ve been getting some pretty good feedback,” English said.

The site is a departure from traditional one-on-one or even group lessons between an instructor and students sitting together. While he said there’s no replacement for  that experience — both socially and to help people learn to play music together — the online versions allow for flexibility. For instance, if a busy music student has a few minutes to practice, but cannot get to a class, the videos are there.

“The online presence is to give students more things to do,” he explained. “It’s not really a replacement for actual live lessons.”

English said making the adjustment to the cameras wasn’t easy.

Preparing the lessons is important to stick to the time limit, and to make up for the fact they are teaching to a lens, rather than a live person.

“The whole purpose is to engage people in the art of making music and teaching people how to play.”

Over his career at PAMA and in the community, English estimated he has taught close to 60,000 lessons. Today, PAMA itself caters to around 230 students.

PAMA, says Diane, opened in 2001 with a store and studio in Sidney. It was a small shop, she said, adding they grew quickly and relocated a few times before finding and renovating their current location, where they have been for six years. Instructors come to PAMA to teach from throughout Greater Victoria and Salt Spring Island.

“Some of them have been with us since we first opened,” she said.

Lloyd said many students seek out music lessons because it’s important in their lives, with rewards they don’t get anywhere else.

“We fill a gap in the education system,” he added. “If it wasn’t for companies like ours, (music) wouldn’t be as accessible.”

Diane added PAMA holds its annual winter recital on Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Highway Church off of McDonald Park Road in Sidney. There, students who are ready for a larger stage can demonstrate their skills with a variety of instruments and with their voices. The recital runs from 1 to 3 p.m.

Find out more about the Peninsula Academy of Music Arts at www.peninsulaacademy.ca.