Music lessons startup Play at Work becomes ‘play at home’ as tech workers get instruction via video

Plat At Work founder Lena Begun gives a piano lesson to a student through a video connection. (Igor Khodzinskiy Photo)

Plenty of work experiences have moved from in-office settings to virtual connections in the weeks since many of us were told to do our jobs remotely because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Pianist and entrepreneur Lena Begun has moved her work, which she used to bring directly to tech workers, online as she continues to offer music lessons through her startup Play At Work. Play at home is a bit more fitting now.

“Once social distancing took hold at the company campuses, the majority of clients we serve began working from home,” Begun said. “It seemed very natural to move in parallel and offer workplace lessons to our students in their new workplace — at home!”

Seated at her piano and and communicating through a laptop nearby, Begun is doing her best to continue the work she started back in 2013. Play At Work usually offers one-on-one instruction in the workplace, as a benefit to employees who can take a break from jobs at Seattle-area tech companies to learn or brush up on an instrument.

(Igor Khodzinskiy Photo)

Multiple instructors teach a variety of instruments as well as choir to about 100 students. There has been a bit of drop-off in lesson volume, but Begun is thrilled that the majority of her students have opted to continue their studies online.

Since most of her students are Google employees, she uses Google Hangouts for video hookups. Other instructors have been using Zoom.

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“A music lesson in the middle of a telecommuting day can provide the same benefits — gratification through growth and development, intellectual stimulation, a cognitive refresh — as a typical workplace lesson,” Begun said. “But the scheduled time may also help to simulate the tempo of the work week, to maintain familiar structure in uncertain times, and to provide a pleasing alternative to the news cycle.”

Not surprisingly, the toughest challenge in trying to teach someone how to play music through a computer is that sound quality suffers. Begun, her co-instructors and students have been making adjustments in positioning laptops, equipment and lighting.

“There is value to the interaction even when the sound gets murky or the picture gets a bit off kilter,” she said. “There’s no substitute for live music, and there’s no replacing face-to-face lessons. But lessons online have kept the music playing in all our lives!”

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