The Hashtag Musician

Addison Horner ’16 teaches micro lessons to budding pianists on Instagram.

If you go to YouTube and type in “how to learn piano” you’ll find "about 2,740,000 results." With over a billion users, YouTube has more than enough people giving piano lessons.

Addison Horner ’16 decided to avoid the traffic jam. The music production and recording arts major garnered social media attention with a growing fan base of budding musicians who follow the 15-second piano lessons he posted five times a week on Instagram.

The Elon Honors Fellow taught the world to play piano on one of the most popular platforms on the web. With 400 million active users, Instagram is second only to Facebook in popularity. Many people use it to post photos and videos of their life from their mobile devices as well as follow their favorite celebrities, their school and favorite sports teams. But can you teach with a 15-second video? Horner thinks so.

Individual lessons may be short, but in a few short weeks, active followers can quickly build up a knowledge base. Horner also presented at the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Piano Pedagogy Symposium.

It was the summer of 2014 when Horner was helping his brother with a piano lesson that he decided to post a musical exercise to his personal Instagram account. The next thing he knew, people liked his posts and began following him. After that, he spoke with his adviser, Clay Stevenson in the Department of Music, about the possibility of making an educational Instagram account his thesis project.

The duo soon settled on Instagram because unlike YouTube, it was uncharted territory for piano lessons and offered an opportunity for engagement. Over the next few months, Horner posted 15-second lessons five times a week, learning how to create quality content on a schedule and meet deadlines.

While he was pleased that no one else had thought of his idea, Horner is open to other people creating their own educational feeds. After all, he said, it’s more important to share the joys of music with others.

Horner shared details of his work at professional conferences, as well the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the university’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum.

The last post to Horner’s account was on Jan. 29. He’s now compiling data with the intent of re-launching a new curriculum. While his primary focus was quality content for a smaller audiences, his next Instagram push will include social advertising to reach a wider audience.

I don’t want to have a monopoly on this. I want people to be taking this idea and spreading it around as much as they can to reach as many people as they can.

Horner is teaching in Winter Springs, Fla., at The MusicBox, a music studio that does private lessons, performance groups and recording. He does freelance work as an a cappella arranger. Using his undergraduate research as a springboard, Horner is developing a piano curriculum, Hashtag Music, for teenagers and adults that uses both print and multimedia resources.