On Friday March 13th I took the pre-emptive decision to close to the public and move towards Skype and Zoom lessons. Up until this point I made every effort to keep the workplace as safe as possible for teachers and students, but the stress of washing hands, cleaning door knobs, piano keys, light switches and seats between every single lesson was becoming too much. Cases were starting to spring up in Monmouthshire and the wider responsibility of reducing risk to the most vulnerable among us and hoping against hope to lighten the load on the NHS lead me to the inevitable decision to cancel all face to face lessons for the foreseeable future.
We have all taken a step into the unknown. At this point I have left the house just once in the six weeks since taking this decision. However, I felt confident from the outset that Skype lessons would provide extra opportunities for my students and determined that they would not prove inferior to in person lessons.
I feel particularly fortunate to have been in a position to quickly adapt to this situation. My own education, which initially relied on frequent travel to Berlin, other parts of Europe and New York, has been very much enhanced by the ability to study via Skype. My home studio was built with this in mind and I was set up and ready to go from the outset.
I have always tried to base my teaching on that of my brilliant and inspiring teachers, and, having received most of their instruction online in recent years, my students were always taught in a manner that could be easily adapted for Skype. There are occasional technical glitches, issues with sound and connection problems, but on the whole I have actually noticed a huge improvement in the efficiency of lessons, and an improved level of concentration from students. It has been particularly useful to see how students sit at their instruments during home practice and the extra parental involvement has been of huge benefit. Students are able to see EXACTLY how I am asking them to move at the piano with the use of close up cameras at different angles.
There are undoubtedly some challenges when teaching in this way. I am continually learning and finding ways in which to more clearly communicate the things which could previously have been demonstrated by simply moving a students hand to the correct key. However, I for one am loving teaching online. I feel so privileged to be able to continue my work and to be part of my students' lives throughout this time. All students have adapted incredibly well to this situation and have progressed brilliantly. There has truly never been a better time to learn to play an instrument!