Peabody Johns Hopkins University Magazine

Reaching Out Through Social Media 

Reaching Out Through Social Media 

Undergraduate trumpet students Sam Hughes, Chenguang Wang, and Jonghwan Yun prepare for morning warmups with faculty artist Joe Burgstaller. The warmups are broadcast to thousands on Facebook.

For centuries, the process of becoming a top-tier musician has been opaque: A student meets with an instructor for a lesson, practices in isolation for hours, meets again with the instructor the next week, retreats to the practice room again … repeating the cycle for years, with an occasional public performance to showcase the results.

Now, equipped with online technology, two Peabody faculty artists are pulling back the curtains on that learning process. Cellist Amit Peled and trumpeter Joe Burgstaller have essentially opened up their studios to the world, doing live internet broadcasts (with available replays) that are seen by audiences on virtually every continent.

Mr. Peled and Mr. Burgstaller both believe that an active digital platform gives musicians a chance not only to learn from one another, but to advance their careers, as they’ve done themselves as performers. “Reaching out to your public is not about having a PR office that sits in New York, eats all of your money, and does nothing,” Mr. Peled says. That’s a relic of the old days, he says.

Curiously enough, though, today’s students have trouble opening them- selves up to a live audience because they’re worried that they’ll make a mistake — a side effect of modern recorded music in which all errors are edited out, Mr. Peled says. He encourages them to focus on the occasional magical moments that come only from live performances — those times when the essence of the performer as a person comes through.

Mr. Burgstaller’s primary focus is on the discipline and self-control that it takes to achieve high levels of musical mastery. He live-streams his 7:00 am warmup sessions, held five days a week; his students are mandated to attend at least three of the hourlong sessions in person each week.

“Healthy warmup and maintenance routines in the morning empower them to create the rest of their day consciously,” Mr. Burgstaller says Doing so elevates their moods, as it does for professional musicians, who should put in at least three hours of practicing every day, he says.

Not only are Peabody students participating in those morning warm- ups, so are thousands of students in geographic locales as dispersed as Brazil, Germany, and Hong Kong. A website called — with a membership of 31,000 band directors across the United States — carries the live streams as well.

But Mr. Burgstaller extends him- self personally far beyond the live streams of existing sessions. He offers a free private introductory Skype lesson to trumpet students who’ve applied to Peabody — the better to give the student a sense of what it would be like to study with him and for Mr. Burgstaller to better understand the applicant. He’s also invited young, professional trumpet players to share the secrets of their success through an online series he calls “How I Made It.”

Both Mr. Peled and Mr. Burgstaller strive to make their online events fun — thinking of them as a chance to entertain as well as instruct. Mr. Peled, who offers studio sessions and other events through the Facebook page for his studio, includes guest appearances from other faculty members. Mr. Burgstaller has developed a cast of characters among his students, complete with nicknames, as you might expect on a morning radio show.

The live streams have quickly grown in popularity since their start in the fall, and the online presence has helped to bump up applications to both the trumpet and cello programs.

Mr. Peled has offered free online video instruction on his own for years. Some of those lessons were seen by Julia Dover, a student in Argentina who was trying to master Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Eventually, she ended up attending Peabody.

In December, Ms. Dover was part of “Cellobration,” a live online performance by Mr. Peled’s cello students. While her family couldn’t afford to fly to Baltimore to attend a concert, they could still watch her playing from afar.

And so, in a living room in Buenos Aries, Ms. Dover’s parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends gathered around a computer to watch and listen — one more curtain pulled back on the mystery of music-making.

— Michael Blumfield