Elon senior teaches piano 15 seconds at a time

Honors Fellow Addison Horner created the account @thehashtagmusician to provide musical "micro lessons" to budding pianists, and he's sharing his undergraduate research findings this spring at several conferences.

<p>Addison Horner '16 (photo courtesy of Hannah Hunsinger/The Sanford Herald)</p>
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.

So Elon University senior Addison Horner decided to avoid the traffic jam.

Horner, a music production and recording arts major from Sanford, North Carolina, is garnering social media attention with a growing fan base of budding musicians who follow the 15-second piano lessons he posts five times a week on Instagram.

Yup. The Elon Honors Fellow is teaching 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 lesson may be short, but in a few short weeks, active followers can quickly build up a knowledge base. Instagram followers aren’t the only ones that have taken notice of his unique teaching style. Horner recently presented at the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Piano Pedagogy Symposium.

“It was a chance I had to network and spread my idea of teaching through Instagram,” Horner said of the experience.

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.

“All of a sudden, I started getting likes and follows from people I had never heard of,” Horner said. He soon spoke with his adviser, Clay Stevenson in the Department of Music, about the possibility of making an educational Instagram account his thesis project.

Horner is no stranger to music. He has been sitting on a piano bench since before he could reach the pedals. His mother taught him at age four and he’s continued through his senior year at Elon.

“When I came to Elon, I wanted to be a singer/songwriter, write pop music and have a lot of fun with that,” Horner said. “The last thing I wanted to do was teach.”

That eventually changed. Horner credits Elon’s music program and his faculty mentors with helping him take his knowledge and share it in a way that others can understand.

“He started doing research on the effectiveness on social media to teach and convey information,” Stevenson.

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.

“I don’t want to have a monopoly on this,” he said. “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 soon will share details of his work at professional conferences, as well the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the university’s own 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 audience, his next Instagram push will include social advertising to reach a wider audience.

How does one begin to learn from @thehashtagmusician? Look no further than his bio to find that answer: “Go down to the first post and start right now!”