Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

It’s Time To Start Teaching Again and I Want Your Advice

Robert GreenbergThank you all for the wonderful submissions made at my request last week to name my next The Great Courses survey. I will select my 5-10 favorites and present them to you later this week for your vote. I will deliver the results to The Great Courses with the hope that they will indeed let the majority rule.

A New Direction?

As a self-employed musician-writer, who spends his working days at home, alone at the computer, I can forget how very intelligent and creative the collective can be. You have reminded me of that creative intelligence with your many suggestions and comments regarding my upcoming course. So: using you as a resource and as a sounding board, I’d like to tell you about my plans for the future and in doing so again solicit your suggestions and advice. (If anyone wants to respond privately, or at greater length than Facebook provides, feel free to contact me on this site.)


For many years, I taught something I called “Living Room Classes” here in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were just that: classes taught in the evening to interested adults in various living rooms across the Bay Area. It was thanks to these classes – much more than my actual classroom teaching – that I learned how to teach music to adults with a minimum of jargon and a maximum of fun. I stopped doing the Living Room Courses in 1999, two years before I resigned my tenure at the San Francisco Conservatory, all in order to concentrate on writing courses for The Teaching Company (The Great Courses).

It’s time for me to start teaching again, though technology has most certainly changed the equation. Instead of the public coming to me, I can go to you – anywhere – via the net. I have decided to start teaching online, and I need your advice regarding all sorts of things, from format to content to pricing to . . . well, everything.

Robert Greenberg - The Making of a Course - Part Seven

Webcasts vs Webinars

The first big decision I need to make is whether to create webcasts or webinars. A webcast would be a straightforward lecture; I would use musical examples provided I could find royalty-free performances to draw on. A webinar would be interactive: I would deliver prepared material but then also take Q&A and – I hope – get a discussion going. For myself, I would much prefer the webinar format. It’s my impression that I’d have a good bit more freedom to use recorded music during a live broadcast. The webinars may (or may not) then be posted on YouTube, with (or without) the musical examples. So: webcast or webinar? (BTW: if there is a copyright lawyer out there who can help guide me through the minefield that is “fair use” I’d be forever grateful to hear from you. Forever. Freaking. Grateful.)

Time and Cost?

My impulse is to create multi-session courses rather than single, self-standing lectures. Such courses would complement the work I’ve done for The Great Courses.
So: do you agree with my impulse towards multi-session courses? If so, approximately how many sessions feels right: 6, 8, 10? More? Fewer? How long would you like each session to be? 60 minutes; 90 minutes? Should the sessions be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly? What would you feel is a fair price for such a session? (I’m figuring that folks can pay as they go or subscribe – at a discount – to a complete series. Yes?)

Antonín DvořákSubjects of interest?

For years (and years and years) the numero uno course I’ve wanted to make for The Great Courses is a comprehensive history of twentieth century music. However, the licensing costs of acquiring recordings of that much music still under original copyright is so prohibitive as to make such a course a total non-starter. However. If the participants in such a course all downloaded the same recordings from iTunes, we could simply listen to the same carefully selected excerpts together, on our own recordings. The licensing issues thus avoided, we could have a helluva good time together, 16-24 sessions. Whoa; be still my heart. What do you think?

Here are some other topics I’d be ready to run with immediately (meaning late fall, 2015):

  • Mozart in Vienna: The Late String Quartets and Quintets
  • The String Chamber Music of Brahms
  • The Chamber Music of Mendelssohn
  • The Chamber Music of Dvořák
Trio 180 Premieres Robert Greenberg 180 Shift

Trio 180 rehearsing the world premiere of my work “180 Shift”

And even further beyond:

Provided success with this model, I would be happy to start writing courses exclusively for the webinars. Most notable would be a comprehensive course on the life and music of Chopin, made possible by the fact that a saint named Aaron Dunn is currently arranging for the recording of all of Chopin’s music, to be available free-of-charge to anyone who wants to use it. If I could find recordings to use, I would do a Symphonies of Mahler course in a heartbeat. I would as well, if anyone were interested, do a course ON MY OWN MUSIC, an act of such self-indulgent chutzpah that I’m embarrassed to have actually broached it, but there you go, I can’t un-write it.

There you have it: at age 61 it’s time to retool, reinvent and to explore a new paradigm. Any and all comments and advice are invited. If anyone has advice to offer re: platforms, I’m all ears.

I look forward to hearing from you!