Hello dear friends. We are coming up on an anniversary. Around this time, we went remote. It has been almost a year since I’ve actually seen most of you. Of course, I have done some distance hellos, and with new students I have tried to show up to let them see I am not just a TV show. And I have taught outside when it was warm and even still, in Winter, I teach two beloved students outside their garage. Truly! We cobbled together a music studio with a keyboard, electric stove and I sit outside, looking through the door, in my snowpants with an electric blanket across my lap! Oh the things we do for love and music!
When I pivoted my teaching practice because of the global pandemic I was so worried that my teaching and relationships with my students and families would suffer. I am so very happy to report that this has not happened. And I have discovered there are advantages to teaching this new way. I am so fortunate to have had the ability and means to adjust our Piano Lab to this new kind of teaching and presence. Of course I badly miss seeing everyone. I miss making you tea and having snacks to share, and enjoying the snacks you share too! I miss saying hello to parents and grandparents who are pitch hitting, I miss having siblings run around my living room and observe, soaking in the music. I miss the hum of conversation in the kitchen blending into what ever song is being played. I miss being able to say to a tired child, just hop on the couch and I’ll play you Satie. I miss my perch to the side in my comfy green chair, as I tend to each student, observe their progress, enjoy their playing. I miss those hugs and the laughs we got to share. I even miss the occasional melt down in the hall as students tired from day at school, climb that last flight, (four floors!) and find themselves emotionally spent and yet, still a piano lesson to go! Bless you all, please know that I have seen it ALL. And it is all O.K.
One of the delights of this year is that amidst all the anxiety and stress I have found that Zoom Piano Lessons are not an inferior form of connecting. Different yes, inferior no. And I actually see some advantages. There is an intimacy and playfulness possible to seeing one another on screen. Lots of face play, close ups of eyeballs! Then there are the kids who know how to apply the apps that turn their heads into crabby cats or suddenly their head is on fire! I am aware that the closeness of being in lock down as a family unit introduces stresses, but I also see kids thriving with more parent contact. (How did we all get so busy!?) I see a relaxation in the children, even in this age of anxiety, I see that in some ways both the children and parents of our Lab are thriving in the slowness and containment of deep relational family life. Of course, this is a testament to how lucky our community is, how privileged.
And my actual teaching? I am happy to report that this year has been one of growing and learning and enjoying teaching. I apply a different kind of attentional and musical rigor to my teaching through the screen. I augment our connection with parent conversations and phone calls and communicate very intentionally. As I teach through zoom or facetime or skype, I coach each student differently and listen very closely. I can see things and hear how the students are working in a new way. I can still feel the emotional energy in the “room” and respond to each student. It has been a joy to adjust for the challenge and lean into learning this new teaching modality. I have developed different ways to musically intervene with different kinds of adjustments, and I see that the physical independence of being in their own space is pushing students to arrive at a greater ownership of their own process, knowledge and playing. Students are thriving and advancing in their artistry and enjoyment of music. What more could we ask for?! I too am advancing in my learning, just like my students, and I am grateful for every minute of this year. This year…whew! I am truly amazed at how everyone has stepped up to this challenge. Tenacity and artistry, humor and generosity. What a Piano Lab. I am honored and grateful to be in our community. And OH will we throw a piano salon when we can. What a celebration that will be!