As we look towards September I know some of you are hoping that face to face lessons will resume. However it became clear to me some weeks ago that I would need keep my teaching practice online for the foreseeable future to ensure everyone's safety and that piano lessons do not become a source of transmission for Covid-19.
Online I currently see more than 20 children a week from more than 9 different schools. In 'normal' times I see around 30 students a week. As soon as the government started talking about bubbles in schools I could see that were I to return to face to face teaching I would be breaking bubbles left right and centre. This would increase both the risk of me not only transmitting the virus between students, families and schools but also catching it myself. These are not risks I think worth taking.
Breaking bubbles for the sake of face to face piano lessons is not a risk worth taking.
There is also the issue of sharing the piano. In every lesson I demonstrate on the piano. In online lessons I use my own piano. In face to face lessons I'd have to use the same piano as the student (with the exception of one location). Guidelines for piano teachers are that the piano keyboard should be cleaned between each student and it would certainly not be practical to have to stop the lesson to clean the piano before and after every demonstration! Not to mention that with my schedule for face to face teaching there is not time to thoroughly clean the keyboard (sides and ends of the keys as well as the surface), the music stand, the door handle, the piano stool and anything else children may have touched after every lesson .
What makes face to face lessons special is the contact between student and teacher. The duets, the improvising together, the games we can play and the resources I use. As things stand at present none of these things can happen in face to face lessons. Not only because resources (including the piano) cannot be shared but also because I'd have to stay 2 metres away so would not be able to closely check technique, point at the page, help the student mark up his or her music, reassure normally if necessary. It seems to me that this would be the worst of all worlds. None of the benefits of face to face lessons and also none of the benefits of online lessons!
Students are well set up for their piano lessons at home and making great progress. I can see what they are up to technically via video, asking for the camera to be moved as necessary by willing parents, we can use the screen share facility in Zoom to look at music together and Moodle supports the children in their learning between lessons.
What has been most surprising about online lessons is the progress children have made and their level of engagement with them. Supported of course by you, their parents. Progress has been at least as fast, if not faster, than in face to face lessons, probably because children have had so much more time recently!
So, for the foreseeable future piano lessons will remain online with all the benefits that brings, none of the downsides that would be encountered in face to face lessons and with no risk of Covid-19 being transmitted between me and you.
We celebrated the children's progress with a digital showcase in May, the standard of which was superb. When the time comes for face to face lessons to resume and large groups can gather indoors we will celebrate with a joyful, in person, concert.
Director of Surrey Music School.