The first note of Ray Foulkes’ weekly piano lesson is the staccato double ring of his telephone.
Every Monday at 8 p.m. Foulkes picks up his cordless phone, clicks on the loudspeaker and sits down at his piano to practice jazz and pop standards with teacher Mark Miller.
Miller listens closely to Foulkes’ every note and offers advice and guidance — from his studio outside Chicago about 4,000 miles away.
Technological advances in the last decade — including super-clear lines, inexpensive Internet-based calling and online video — have combined with a naturally sharp ear to enable Miller to teach music to students thousands of miles away.
Miller, who charges $80 an hour for lessons, plans to add Web cameras so he can see what fingers his students are using on each key and to show them how a piece should be played.
The Skype Net-phone service Miller uses also offers video and conferencing, which he plans to use to see his students play and offer long-distance group lessons.