Piano Lessons with MacPhail Center of Music


MacPhail Center for Music, first established in 1907 and located in Minneapolis, now offers online lessons. For this TOS crew review my son Benny took four live MacPhail Online 1:1 piano lessons with a certified Royal Conservatory of Music piano teacher. All that was required was a fast Internet, a webcam, and Skype. I love modern technology.


To start the process, we filled out a student information form to help MacPhail determine the best teacher for Benny. Benny is an advanced student and has six years of lessons and study.  A placement assistant soon contacted us through email:

Dear Davis Family,

Greetings from MacPhail Center for Music!  I will be helping to match Benny with one of our great teachers. I see that Benny is very diligent when it comes to practicing.  That is terrific!  I’m sorry that he has had to change teachers so many times, but the good thing about that is that he has been able to get a different perspective from each of his teachers.  I’m sure that his experience with his MacPhail faculty member will serve to broaden his understanding of music further. Based on the background you provided, I have already begun the process of teacher placement.  I will work as quickly as possible, and I will notify you when I’ve found the ideal teacher/student match for you.  Please note that this can take 10 – 14 days. In the meantime, our team will help ensure that your technical equipment is maximized so that you are all set for your first MacPhail lesson. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you through online music lessons!  Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time with questions.  I am happy to help you however I can.

The next step was an equipment check to make sure that everything on our end such as location, sound, and picture quality worked properly before the lessons began.

Once Benny was matched with an instructor, he was able to select a convenient lesson time, and then needed to add her to his Skype contacts.  On the day of his first lesson and on all subsequent lessons she called him on time (or 1-2 minutes early), and the lessons each lasted thirty minutes.

To give you a visual on what a skype music lesson is like, here is a one minute Online lesson example from MacPhail:


My husband sat it on the first lesson and took some notes:

At the start, the teacher interviewed Benny about the types and styles of music he would like to play and learn. She played a few examples for him to demonstrate some styles he might not have been familiar with (sonata, romantic, classical…). Then she had him play something for her. After, she asked if there was anything challenging about the piece he played and discussed his technique. She explained to him a few pointers and techniques she uses, such as “It’s not a matter of knowing the music better but of telling your hand the shape.”  She had him do some exercises with some challenging chord transitions. When the lesson was done he remarked at how much he liked his teacher and how he was looking forward to the pieces she chose for him to work on.

After his fourth and final lesson, I interviewed Benny on his overall experience and his impressions of Macphail Center of Music’s Online program.

benny at RMSC
Benny playing the keyboard at Rochester Museum and Science Center Giant Tesla Coil demonstration.
  • Me: Benny, tell me a little about yourself, and how you became interested in the piano.
  • Benny: When I was ten years old my mom signed me up for piano lessons at our co-op.  I liked it so I continued with lessons. After my first piano teacher moved away, I got a different teacher and she expected much more of me than I was capable of as I was still a new student.  I got frustrated because she demanded an hour of practice a day.
  • Me: Did that make you want to give up piano?
Giant Tesla Coils responding to Benny's keyboard playing.
Giant Tesla Coils responding to Benny’s keyboard playing.
  • Benny: No, not entirely, but I was discouraged and stopped for awhile. About six months later my mom found me a new teacher, a homeschool graduate who came to our house.  I don’t remember too much because I only had her for about three months and then she stopped lessons to pursue a new career.  Luckily she had referred us to another homeschool teacher, this one was a high school student and we drove to her house.
  • Me: How did that work out for you?
  • Benny: Really well. She was easy going, flexible to my level of skill and she helped me grow as a musician.  I enjoyed the recitals, and working with the same teacher for more than just a few months.  After she graduated I had one teacher that really turned me off from piano because she did not challenge me, rather she brought me down lower than my level of expertise.  My sophomore year of high school we were able to sign up with a professional music teacher who came to my home.  That was also the year I got a real piano to play on.  Before I only had an electric keyboard.  That new piano was a breath of fresh air, and encouraged me to play more.

piano keys

  • Me: Wow Benny, you have had a substantial variety of teachers and methods of piano instruction.  How did you like the MacPhail experience of instruction?
  • Benny: It was a little difficult to get used to at first because I was used to having a physically present teacher.  I was skeptical that this would work, but it did. My teacher Antonia was nice, energetic, encouraging, and I looked forward to the lessons. She taught me to curve my fingers as she emphasized hand placements, timing and accuracy. She sent me my song to learn through a PDF and a second piece I downloaded from a website.  It was nice not to have to buy a new book.
  • Me: What was your overall impression and final thoughts?
  • Benny: I highly enjoyed the lessons and was motivated to practice. My instructor did a perfect job picking pieces for me.  I was surprised how well everything worked. Not one thing went wrong. Except we figured out you couldn’t run the microwave during the Skype call. You do have to have a strong Internet connection or a fast computer if you don’t quite meet their required Internet speed.  I definitely would recommend both MacPhail Online lessons and especially my teacher Ms. Antonia. She is exactly how she is described in her biography.  Her accent was really cool too.

Pricing: Special Introductory Pricing – Individual Instruction – Four Online Lessons for $111 Standard pricing will apply after introductory lessons at $37 per 30-minute lesson. 

Everything about our experience with MacPhail Online music lessons was positive. This is a professionally run, high quality music instruction program that offers an individualized, flexible and supportive approach.  The live, Online addition is a wonderful option for many situations – busy families, no transportation, newly relocated, military families or frequent travelers, missionary kids, chronic illness, or even lack of accessible quality music instructors.  At present, Online lessons are available for all levels of learners for piano, guitar, violin, viola, cello, harp, flute, clarinet, trumpet, low brass, saxophone and percussion.


I hope you enjoyed reading our review of MacPhail, and may I direct you over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog to read more reviews on  Macphail Online music lessons.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. Victor Hugo

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