Lake School Online January 2021

A Reflection by Felix Meagher

A Youth Session at the Lake School in 2020, in a more ‘normal’ year.

The GOOD NEWS concerning The BIG QUESTIONS – Can you make you make an online event work? Can you evoke some of the major emotions and experiences online, that you have experienced live? Our answers are YES! The feedback we have received so far has been very positive. Out ticket holders felt they got the learning and the interaction they bought into, and our tutors felt like they could convey what they had to teach. Our more ‘entertainment style’ events  – Paddy Fitzgerald’s Evening Classes, Cora Browne’s Singing Class, Spud Poets Night, Mark and Lisa McDonnell’s Slow and Steady Sessions worked and seemed satisfying to most. A Lake School Nostalgia video was made by the Barbary Family of Mildura which you can view on –

The MAIN PROBLEMS we encountered were (a) the changing nature of the pandemic, (b) changed technical requirements due to change in plans (c) inexperience in running the online aspects efficiently, and (d) inability to change online plans quickly.

The changing nature of the pandemic had two major effects. Firstly, the dropping rate of infections in late October coincided with our tickets sales drying up. Tickets went on sale late in September and the online event sold well until the rate of infection began to drop. The moment it seemed possible Melbournians might be out of lockdown for New Year, potential ticket holders expressed a lack of enthusiasm for more time ‘spent behind a screen.’ Cynically, if we had put tickets on sale when infections were high in August we might have sold a lot better. Although our 70 ticket holders (we were aiming for 150) were down from our usual 300 or so for a live event, in retrospect, it’s hard to see how we could have coped with much larger numbers.  We were stretched with 70!

Secondly, when the new infections surfaced on New Year’s Eve and a third wave in Melbourne seemed likely or possible, our plans for filming the event in Koroit were suddenly made impossible. The smaller live aspects we had planned were cancelled by midday that day, and we started making alternative plans on how to run the classes from a number of remote locations, mostly in the tutors’ homes. Travel plans were thrown into chaos, and new timetables had to be written to technically and administratively support the tutors and the 90 online events that were to begin two days later.

The change of venues, in particular, threw our technical plans into disarray. Computers and web cams that had been purchased, ethernet cords connecting to modems, venues hired, internet speeds checked, and technical rehearsals and plans were all suddenly made almost useless. We now had to rely on what the tutors had at their homes. Some of the early Zoom classes suffered from inadequate technology, and some tutors had to buy microphones and leads to get better sound.

Another problem we encountered was a sudden change in the price of a media platform we intended to use. Our evening concerts were intended to be live streamed on Vimeo until a massive price increase  a couple of weeks beforehand forced us to look elsewhere for live streaming. As an alternative we chose to create a Facebook Group, and this would have worked well if we hadn’t be forced to cancel our live evening concerts. Creating the Facebook Group did have its problems. Some of our students have philosophical objections to using Facebook, and some other students were unable to be made Group Members for reasons we still haven’t worked out. Most of these problems could probably have been sorted out with a reasonable lead time.

A greater efficiency and a greater experience in running online events would have given us greater flexibility to respond to students’ needs. Some of our beginner classes included students who had only just picked up their instrument. These students needed to be separated and offered their own classes. In a live situation we are usually able to adjust our resources to cover these people, and offer extra and relevant classes. 


The instruments of the online participants of the Lake School from Traralgon, 2021

One of the most encouraging aspects of the Lake School Online was that it ran next to and became intertwined with a number of impromptu live events. Most significant of these was a group of five families with young musicians who camped at Crossley, and played lots of live music as well as attending online classes.  A music session in Traralgon also worked around Lake School classes. It would be possible to imagine Lake School Live in Koroit complemented by online classes that fed into live events all the around Australia and perhaps overseas. 

Felix Meagher,  Lake School Program Director, January 12, 2021
The Lake School wishes to thank its sponsors Moyne Shire, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Maton Guitars, Daly’s IGA and Liquor and The Irish Government for assistance in staging our event.