First person: How we are bringing high-level music education to the masses

Igor Lichtmann playing an acoustic guitar.
Igor Lichtmann

Co-founders Chris Garwood and Igor Lichtmann, a current student and alumnus of the Yale School of Music respectively, share the story behind the creation of tonebase, an online platform where music enthusiasts learn directly from world-class musicians.

The concept for tonebase was born from a question posed in the “Innovation and Collaboration” class at the School of Music: “If you could contribute ANYTHING to the classical music world, what would it be?” Our answer: a way for people everywhere to learn from the very best musicians around the world — individuals who, due to their busy performing and teaching careers, are traditionally accessible to only a select few.

Although we ourselves were fortunate enough to learn from great musicians at Yale School of Music, it is our firm belief that the experience of studying with the best should be available to everyone and not limited to only a handful of students.

With tonebase, our aim is to make great musicians accessible to everyone. To this end, we have built a platform where music enthusiasts can watch hundreds of instructional videos and receive personal feedback from the world’s top musicians. On our site, performers, composers, and educators create and share their own videos, thereby reaching thousands of students at once instead of one at a time. Students can then learn directly from their musical idols, giving them the inspiration and the knowledge they need to reach their highest potential.

This idea of providing a space where both students and educators are actively engaged in the learning process is an essential tenet of the community we are seeking to build at tonebase. Yale School of Music guitar professor and world-class performer Benjamin Verdery has been an ardent supporter of tonebase from the beginning. “Tonebase allows people who are passionate about achieving higher artistic goals to connect with those who can guide them,” said Verdery. “I’m honored and excited to be part of tonebase as they embark upon this noble endeavor.”

While our journey began with that question in the “Innovation and Collaboration” class, it did not end there. Once the class was finished, we took our project to the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY) where the advisers helped us develop the concept and begin the process of turning it into a business.

In the summer of 2017, we were admitted to the highly competitive Tsai CITY Summer Fellowship, an eight-week program where we received funding and mentorship from top business executives. With this funding, we were able to build and successfully launch the platform in our initial market: classical guitar. Today, we have accumulated a roster of over 35 top guitarists and built a database with hundreds of instructional videos created by these individuals. Having recently secured additional funding from the student-led venture capital Dorm Room Fund, we will be expanding the concept we have proven in classical guitar to other instruments and eventually other creative arenas.

While we are excited for the future, what gives us the most pleasure is seeing our community of passionate learners and knowledgeable educators grow on a daily basis. You can learn more by visiting our website tonebase.co or dropping by any of our social media outlets.

Read more about tonebase here.