It’s a tale as old as time: An experienced guitarist sits down with a young kid who just wants to learn the basics. They have an hour-long lesson in which they discuss tuning, chord progression, and they strum a few easy songs. The 21st-century catch? The guitarist is halfway across the world.
No matter where the student or teacher is, music instruction is now possible through a website called Bandhappy (bandhappy.com), which uses video chat to connect nearly 400 teachers with more than 8,000 students around the globe.
“This creates such a strong bond between student and musician,” says founder and Pikesville native Matt Halpern, drummer in the band Periphery. “Plus, the artists can supplement their income and not eat Ramen every day.”
In fact, that’s how he came up with the concept. Halpern was on tour and needed to make money, so he started to give music lessons, in person, to fans in every city. Eventually, other musicians realized this was a good idea and Halpern started booking lessons for everybody.
“I had the idea about a lesson website prior to this,” he says. “But this was market proof. Once we got home from tour, we had a whole roster of kids we could teach.”
So Halpern and his partners, Andy Meister and Jonathan Rivlin, received a grant from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and worked with local company R2i on web development. The site launched in January.
When users go to the site, they can see available lessons for the next two days, and browse by instrument type, artist name, and music genre. The student and teacher meet over a Skype-like chat, have a music lesson, then the user pays via credit card or PayPal.
The website’s musicians, who go through a screening process when they apply, are from bands like Alice Cooper, Lamb of God, Less Than Jake, RX Bandits, and Jason Aldean. And Halpern is hoping to expand its student roster to include school kids.
“We’ve started to work with local school systems,” he says, referencing Pikesville High School in particular. “The budgets for music and arts are terrible. This would be a great way to encourage them to learn and play music from real-world musicians, at a much cheaper cost than field trips.”
Another future goal is to affiliate with cause-based initiatives and have musicians donate part of their lessons to charity.
“We want to become the go-to place for music education,” Halpern says. “I really believe this website will build future musicians in the best possible way.”