Coronavirus and Piano Lessons

With the World Health Organisation’s confirmation of a pandemic, it’s natural that most of us have become preoccupied, concerned and even scared about what the rapid spread of coronavirus might mean for our lives and livelihoods.

Piano teacher forums are awash with teachers seeking advice and support, but clear, practical and proportionate advice isn’t always available.

A common theme in the advice teachers are sharing is that the best option for many will be to use a video link to continue tuition wherever possible.

For several years, my students and I have already been doing just that, using FaceTime and Skype as a fallback option when coming to my studio proves impossible. And we have found that tuition via video link, while having some obvious limitations, can also offer some unique insights and opportunities.

By minimising disruption to lessons, we can help our pupils to stay motivated and maintain momentum, while as teachers we continue to earn our living.

There are of course dangers inherent in closing down our studios prematurely, stoking alarm, and creating a situation where tuition via video link is used for an unnecessarily extended time to the possible detriment of pupil progress.

Some teachers feel overwhelmed by the technological aspects of setting up a video link; they needn’t. The present situation creates an opportunity for us to embrace new technologies and learn alternative approaches that will both enhance our ongoing teaching and benefit our businesses.

An effective video link, where offered as a temporary solution for students who generally come to lessons, depends on using an easy, no-fuss setup that can freely be adopted by all our students straight away, regardless of their age and technical know-how.

In this post, I will share the advice that I am simultaneously sending to my students, outlining studio policy and explaining to them how easy it is to have their lesson via video link. While some have previously used this option, many haven’t, so I’ve included reassuring instructions.

I should preface this by recognising that most teachers will understand straight away that their studio policies differ from mine. And that’s good. There is no “right and wrong” way of organising a teaching studio, and the fact that we all operate a little differently is a huge positive, enabling those looking for a teacher to select one whose approach best fits their needs.

I should also add that the advice given below is predicated on current official advice in the UK; should I be forced to close the studio at a later point in our national response, I will need to revisit some aspects of the policy.

In the meantime, my aim is to be as flexible and supportive as possible, and offer as much choice to students as I can.

I hope that the thoughts below will be of some help to those teachers who are still considering their options, and in that spirit, here is my letter to students and parents…


Coronavirus Update

12th March 2020. Dear Students and Parents,

With the ongoing spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, I have been continuing to follow and monitor official guidance from Public Health England and the UK Government.

One-to-one piano lessons are a close-proximity activity. I have therefore reflected carefully on proportionate action to take in pursuit of the following General Aims:

1. To safeguard all our health, and to minimise any risk of my teaching studio contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.
2. To limit any disruption to lessons and help students stay motivated in their musical learning and piano journey;
3. To maintain a balanced attitude, fulfil my professional commitments, and continue working as fully and effectively as possible.

For the foreseeable future my studio will remain open. However, with more people likely to be working from home in the coming weeks, alongside the possibility that schools might be closed, I am keen to highlight and recommend a temporary transition towards having lessons from your home via video link.

USING A VIDEO LINK

To receive your piano lessons via video link, you will need:
Either any Apple device with the FaceTime app
Or any similar device (laptop, tablet, phone) with the Skype app or Facebook’s Messenger service.

During the Lesson:
• Please try to position the built-in camera on your device so that it shows your face and hands; make sure that there is sufficient lighting.
• Please remember to have a pencil to hand; you may need to write comments or fingering on the music, or in your practice notebook.
• Students up to the age of 18 must have their lesson using a parent’s account, and under their supervision.

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

So long as my studio remains open, you have three options as follows:

COME to the studio only if:
• You and your household are in full health;
• You haven’t been in close contact with anyone who is unwell, or who has recently returned to the UK from a high risk destination.

VIDEO call me for your lesson if any of the following apply:
• You are self-isolating due to illness or in response to advice;
• You are concerned about picking up or passing on the virus;
• You are experiencing anxiety and would prefer to learn from home.

CANCEL your lesson if:
• You are too unwell to have a lesson at all;
• Using a video link isn’t an option;
• You would prefer to bank the lesson and carry it forward to a later date (please remember to give the required 24 hours notice).

I would like to thank all students and families for your ongoing support and understanding during this uncertain time.

Stay Well!
Andrew

Closing Thoughts…

Teachers who are keeping their studios open are strongly advised to read this article about air quality. A negative ioniser can kill airborne viruses.

Teachers looking for more detailed advice about teaching via a video link might find this article by Sally Cathcart of The Curious Piano Teachers helpful.

I would like to wish all Pianodao readers the best of health.


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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs Keyquest Music - his successful independent music education business, private teaching practice and creative outlet.

9 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Piano Lessons”

  1. can you tell us actually how to use a video link? I never ever in nearly 7 decades have done such a thing. To be fair, it wasn’t even possible for the first 5-6 decades of my life…

    Like

      1. thank you! I can’t keep my studio open as half my pupils are well over 70 and I’m almost up with them! However, this morning a friend popped by with some shopping for us and her daughter came too (y7 pupil of mine). Just now said daughter has sent me a whatsapp video or her playing piano, and we’re communicating that way for now. She’s reminded me just now of my Rule 1 – Don’t Panic! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

          1. also, I’m curious about why a parent has to be present at all times during video-sending/receiving. After all, when I teach pupils, most come under their own steam, are shut in my studio with me for their lesson, then take themselves home. No parent present at any time. Why is that OK but sending video when parent isn’t present isn’t? I don’t get it. I’d have thought video was less immediately risky in safeguarding terms.

            Like

            1. Good question Dorothy!
              You are right that one-to-one private tuition has safeguarding risks, and I think it’s important for lessons to take place in an overlooked space with an open door policy. Video lessons carry greater risks, however, because once the teacher and student become online contacts, their interaction can potentially continue 24/7, unobserved by other adults and without their knowledge.

              I don’t insist that the parent remain throughout a video lesson, but I do insist the video call is made using the parent’s account, which is in line with the ISM and EPTA codes of conduct. I say to parents that I like theirs to be the first face I see at the start of a call, and the final face at the end of it. This also gives the chance to chat about their child’s progress and work I am setting.

              And of course, this prevents subsequent unauthorised teacher/pupil contact, which is deeply reassuring to parents.
              I’ve seen some teachers reporting online that many of the parents have rejected video lessons, and I suspect that safeguarding is one, natural parental concern in this context. By having a clear approach that puts minds at rest, we make the transition to video-based learning a far more acceptable and welcome one.

              I hope this helps 😀

              Like

              1. that’s very interesting. I’d be happy to teach with the door open, at prep schools all doors had windows, but my fully retired non-musician husband would be very unhappy! Most of the year anyone passing along the street can look right in and see what’s happening anyway. I’ve just rung the ISM and they said that provided parents give permission I can communicate direct with their children (we are talking teens here, not tinies, who don’t have their own accounts anyway). I will need to think further about this. New times call for different thinking. Not to mention getting to grips with new technology! Thanks for the interaction. Much appreciated.

                Liked by 1 person

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