When it became apparent that COVID-19 would likely close schools, stores, offices and most likely music studios I quickly decided that online teaching would be my only viable option.  I trial tested a lesson 2 weeks before shutdown and informed my parents that this would be “Plan B” should the schools shut down.  As I have a significant Asian community I knew that safety and concern for the possible spread of viruses would be a top priority.  There was no denial in my studio community.  I also realized many people teach online almost everywhere now, including online courses in universities, etc.  Still committed to my traditional studio, I thought I would “grin and bear it” until we could open again.  Certainly I look forward to reopening my studio along with many of you.  I was not prepared, however, to consider what I could learn from this experience.  Given we have all been in this for three weeks, this is what I have discovered so far (some of which I suspected).

  1.  My students had better quality upright pianos than I thought.  This was a pleasant surpirse but many of them were studio uprights and were less than 10 years old.  They looked brand new.
  2. The few students I had on a keyboard (mostly very young beginners) had a better instrument than I thought also.  This also was a pleasant surprise, so it has changed my perception of when I would push their parents to move to a quality upright.
  3. Almost all of my students under the age of 10 sit too low.  No wonder then that I fight the “lift your wrists” battle in the studio lesson.  They play that way all week long.  My solution is to request parents to get a garden kneeler for about $10 at Amazon and lift them up.  We use them in the studio but my parents did not make the connection that they should imitate the same position at home (or they never got around to it.)  I was able to call the parent over to the piano and reiterate that the child is too low and we need to fix this soon.
  4. Several of the pianos are way out of tune.  I suspected this but I had to convince parents to make a reservation now as waiting until we open back up is going to result in a backlog that could result in several months wait.  It brought home to me that tuning needs to be in my policy (a brief explanation of how often and when to tune the instrument.)
  5. My students are learning at the same rate or actually faster (more material covered) online.  This is mostly because I determined we would work on several things we wouldn’t have done with quite so much enthusiasm had we not been quarantined.  For example, I made each student a packet of theory materials designed to move us forward in a more condensed fashion.  This should allow me to assign them a higher level theory book rather than slog through the books starting at book 1.  It takes forever.  I have condensed the first 3 books into a worksheet series. I’ve been meaning to do this but with festivals et al, I had a hard time working it in.  Technique has been going strong.  I focus on it weekly, with my goal being again to move them forward in their skills before we open once again.
  6.   At least so far, I’m more tired teaching online than in person.  Perhaps this is the lack of moving around in the studio, or just the tediousness of staring at the computer screen for hours at a time.  My next goal is to mitigate that as much as possible.
  7. Number 7 is really a surprise.  For the first time in my teaching career, the arts are winning over the sports mania we experience here in the USA.  Every arts medium from dance to martial arts and private instruemental lessons is being taught online while sports teams are sidelined.  I’ve read on some blog posts that parents that initially stopped lessons during the shutdown are actually returning.  They realize there’s nothing else to do!  Maybe that’s by default but perhaps if we are lucky the general population will have a greater appreciation for what we do and what the arts has to offer.  A silver lining over a very black cloud.

This week is “spring break” which I am taking as scheduled since I luckily lost no instructional time transitioning to online teaching.  I’m hopeful to get my low energy levels back–perhaps it’s also the stress we all feel from what is happening in our country and around the world.  It’s the anxiety.  Everyone knows someone who is adversely affected by the shutdown and rampant illness.  Whether or not you are teaching this week, I pray you stay well, stay healthy and may we all walk together and come out successfully once this virus calms down in the coming months.

With sincere gratitude,

Dr. Carol Ann