Rochester musician taking lessons from in-person to online

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Photos provided by Aaron Winters, Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is no longer taking in-person lessons.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Michael Edwards is best known in Rochester as the baritone saxophone player for local powerhouse, Prime Time Funk. In Rochester’s tight-knit community, he’s also known as the guy who can play pretty much anything.

Photo: Aaron Winters. Edwards, center.

“I also do a solo act called Mike Edwards Acoustic 80’s,” he said. “I play guitar, flute, saxophone, and fiddle with my looper.”

But most of his income comes through teaching, to students of all ages and skill levels. He owns a studio called the Michael Edwards Music Studio in Brighton, which is lined with dozens of instruments.

He estimates that 75% of his yearly earnings come from private lessons, to about 40 half hour lessons a week. He charges a flat monthly rate so students can lock in a time.

However, he and his wife — who is also a contract worker — will have to plan in a time when everything, especially contracts, are uncertain.

Now that the COVID-19 situation has forced more people inside, and as more people are practicing social distancing, Edwards has had to find another solution.

Photo: Aaron Winters. Prime Time Funk in 2019.

“I’m also going crazy sterilizing the studio for people who still want to come in,” Edwards said. He’s also changing his lesson protocol.

“I’m doing completely hands off lessons,” he said. “I’m not touching their music, I’m not touching their instruments, I’m obviously not touching them, I have them set up on one part of the studio, and I’m on the other.”

But, he’s fortunate. Through teaching reeds, drums, strings, brass, violin, keyboards, bass, and guitar, he’s managed to keep most of his business afloat. He quips that it’s whatever he can get his hands on to keep him employed.

He says he’s still able to interact with students online, despite the challenges.

“It’s hard, because I can’t point to the music,” he said. “I can’t adjust their fingerings, so that’s a challenge for me, I have to be able to verbalize things to a much greater degree.”

Edwards says this is helps keeping kids on track… But also, more than just learning guitar — finally — it’s about helping yourself through a tough time.

“I think it’s really important to for people to have something to distract them, and feed their souls during this time,” he said.

Edwards has also hopped on the live streaming train. He will broadcast shows “semi regularly” with a digital tip jar, starting this Thursday at 7pm.

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