I had been looking for an early intermediate piano solo arrangement of the Huron Carol for a Canadian adult learner. But because I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to write one myself. I’ve now tried the arrangement with several students who have all responded positively, so I thought it might be a good idea to make it more widely available.
I have been teaching exclusively online since 16 March 2020. Almost instantly, Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Google meets became the “new normal”. By comparison with face-to-face lessons, attendance at online piano lessons improved significantly; I can count on one hand the number of missed piano lessons over the past 15 months. Significant progress was made by all students who completed video sight reading tasks and picked up on my cues regarding personal practice. A good handful have also achieved exam success using the new assessment products available to us (recorded video performance exams). The benefit from the parent’s perspective is you don’t have to take account of travel time for an online piano lesson!
That said, you’ll appreciate that my own experience of the online learning environment is generally positive, and therefore does not agree with the overwhelmingly negative assessment of online education presented in the media. So, given the positive impact on students’ learning, I fully expect that online piano lessons will continue to be a significant teaching and learning environment for us as we continue learning how to live in a pandemic. However, as we move into Level 0, it is time to begin exploring what face-to-face teaching might look like; but please bear in mind that even at Level 0, “People are advised to work from home wherever that is practicable” (www.gov.scot). So, this is not simply a matter of getting back to what we did before; it’s about exploring ways to create a “new normal” that is safe and flexible.
As as “sole trader”, my first business priority is my own health, without which I would not be able to offer piano lessons at all. Alongside that, the health of my students (the whole cohort) is also crucial. In order to ensure the covid safety of the learning environment, the following measures will be in place for face-to-face piano lessons:
I am double-vaccinated
I will test regularly
I am working with a Health & Safety Adviser at NHS Fife to ensure the safety of the learning environment.
I have completed a Risk Assessment, which you can find here.
I will teach only from my own studio, and will not be visiting student’s homes for lessons.
If we should move from Level 0 to any of the higher levels, we will revert immediately to online lessons.
If I test positive, feel unwell, or if I’m instructed to self-isolate, we will revert to online lessons.
If a student tests positive, feels unwell, or if they’re instructed to self-isolate, their lessons can continue online.
I have over 50 piano students each week. I will facilitate separation between students by teaching lessons face to face and online alternately. To enable this, students who opt for in-person lessons will alternate weekly lessons between online and in person.
The physical teaching space means that it will no longer be possible to have a parent or siblings in the room during lessons. I would be more happy to encourage parents to observe their child’s lesson via a video call.
Please avoid using public transport. If you have to use public transport, we can continue with piano lessons online.
Please arrive on time. I will greet the student at the front door, wearing a mask; and I ask that the student should arrive wearing a face covering. At that point, I will invite the student to use the hand sanitiser provided (this can also be used at the end of the piano lesson).
In order to avoid unnecessary cleaning tasks between lessons, the student should not touch anything other than the piano. Piano lessons are generally 30 minutes, so there should be no need for anyone to use the loo during their lesson – even though other people’s bathrooms hold a strange fascination for children!
Once we are seated at the piano, I will invite the student to remove their mask if they wish.
There will be two pianos side-by-side in the room; one for students, and the other for me. As my job is to do most of the talking, I will keep my facemask on through the lesson. Good ventilation will be ensured with the window open. The student piano will be cleaned before each lesson.
Lessons will conclude at the time agreed, and you should be ready to collect your child at that time. At the end of the lesson, we will put our masks back on, then make our way to the front door.
As I have been doing with online lessons, I will continue to send out lesson appointment reminders before each lesson; and lesson notes and a payment request link after each lesson as this will reduce unnecessary contact.
This risk assessment considers the risk posed by Coronavirus-19 (SARS-CoV-2) by identifying circumstances where exposure to the virus could occur (see B – ‘Sources of Risk’). Existing control measures (that are already in place) for managing the associated risk are defined (see C – ‘Control Measures’). Responsibility for these measures are shown in bold.
To determine if the sources of risk are managed adequately by the existing control measures, the level of residual risk (taking into account the effect of the control measures) is calculated (see D). Residual risk level is calculated using the scoring matrix shown below. Where the residual risk is scored higher than 6, further action may be required to reduce the risk further (see E).
Circumstances of potential exposure or increased risk of serious illness are identified in the following broad areas:
Travel to and from lesson on public transport.
Contact with common contact surfaces.
Close proximity activity (airborne transmission)
B. SOURCES OF RISK
C. EXISTING CONTROL MEASURES
E. ADDITIONAL MEASURES where SxL is greater than 6
S x L
1. Students who need to use public transport including buses and trains could be in close proximity of other members of the public resulting in potential virus transmission.
a. Check if students who use public transport are able to maintain distancing. If not, consideration made to vary lesson time so student can avoid peak times. Teacher
Consider conducting lesson by video call. Ensure appropriate safeguarding at all times. Teacher
2. Touching common contact surfaces including those listed below could result in virus transmission. – Door handles- Piano keys- Sheet music- Practice notes
a. All common contact surfaces cleaned immediately prior to each student arriving including:- Door handle- Piano keys- Perspex screenTeacher b. Where practicable, regularly used doors are propped open to prevent the need for hand contact. Teacher c. Teacher and students wash hands immediately before and after lesson. Teacher & Student d. Students use their own music where possible. Student e. Students makes their own practice notes using their own pen / pencil. Student
c. Hand sanitiser will be provided e. Practise notes will be made up by the Teacherand send out after the lesson.
3. Close proximity between teacher and student could result in airborne transmission of virus:
a. Seating set up so that teacher and student are 2m apart. Teacher b. If / when not practicable to maintain 2m distancing, 1m distancing plus at least one of the following mitigating measures is applied:- side to side positioning (no face to face communication)- face shield worn- face masks or coverings worn. Teacherc. Ventilation is maximised by opening doors and windows where practicable. Teacher
b. Teacher and Studentwill both wear face masks on entry and exit, and the teacher will wear a face shield during the lesson.
4. Close proximity between students especially during crossover between lessons could result in airborne transmission of virus.
a. 5 min gap between lessons applied to allow one student to leave before the next arrives. Teacher b. Lessons started and finished promptly to ensure no crossover between students. Teacher c. Students asked not to arrive until the time of their lesson. Student
b. Parent to ensure that the student is collected from the lesson at the time due.
5. Singing increases risk of transmission of virus.
a. Singing is carried out behind a Perspex screen which is cleaned after the singing activity. Student
Limit the use of singing in the lesson. Teacher
6. Teacher and student are at increased risk of having and transmitting Covid-19 if any of the following apply to any members of their households::- Tested positive for Covid-19- Covid-19 symptoms (cough, temperature, loss of taste or smell) – Contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
a. Students asked to advise if any of the following applies to them or any member of their household: – Tested positive for Covid-19- Continuous cough, temperature or loss of tase or smell symptoms- Contact with a confirmed Covid-19 caseTeacher & Student Conducting lesson by remote connection technology such as Zoom, Teams or Facetime is considered for affected students. Teacher
6. Students who are in a high risk group due to age or underlying health condition may be at greater risk of serious illness in the event of exposure.
a. Students who are at higher risk due to age or underlying health conditions are identified and extra vigilance applied regarding distancing and cleaning measures (see above). Teacher
Consider conducting lesson by remote connection technology such as Teams, Skype, Facetime or other secure platform. Ensure appropriate safeguarding at all times. Teacher
Having made the change to teaching online in the middle of March, I’ve been delighted with the progress my students have been making, and impressed by quality of work that they are putting in. I asked them what they thought about online piano lessons, and here are the responses I have received so far.
Jacob’s Skype lesson on Kabalevsky’s “A Porcupine Dance”
Elliot and Toby’s review
Emily’s Skype lesson
Here’s a review from one of my fifth year students:
“I’m really enjoying my virtual piano lessons. In a time where everything is so uncertain and abnormal, it’s nice to still have the opportunity to improve my piano playing and to continue learning. I’m finding that doing lessons over video call really has no negative impact on my learning and is equally as useful as having face to face lessons. Would highly recommend that people consider trying virtual music lessons if they haven’t already done so as I’m finding them to be very productive.”
So, whilst some students drew pictures, some sent in text, some sent a photograph of themselves in their lesson, when one student’s mother sent this movie trailer through to me, it came as a complete surprise!
Due to the present extraordinary circumstances, I’m now teaching exclusively online. Please feel free to use my contact page if you’d like to set up a video call piano lesson.
What you will need
Before the lesson, please check your messages, and print any music that I send for us to use during the lesson.
From experience so far, Google Meet seems to provide the most stable environment, but Skype on a laptop seems to be the next best option. Zoom is another viable alternative, but FaceTime only provides a limted learning environment.
It’s possible to do a video link lesson with a phone, but bear in mind that if I’m demonstrating something using a screen share, there probably won’t be sufficient definition for you to see clearly what I’m doing. If possible, a tablet device, or laptop would let you see better.
You’ll need to find a good position for your device. A laptop probably needs to be at about the same height as the piano keyboard. I normally use a good sturdy music stand, but, in the spirit of make-do-and-mend, even an ironing board would do!
Position the camera so that it shows your face and hands, and make sure the piano keyboard is visible too. The room needs to be well lit, and don’t have a window in the picture as during the day, this will create a kind of halo effect. Ideally, your screen should look something like this:
Have a pencil handy; you’ll need to mark up your music scores. I will send out practice objectives in a message after your lesson.
None of the video call applications are designed for making music and therefore have limitations; they are all built around the assumption that when one person is talking the other is listening. This means that if the student carries on trying to work something out, it is impossible for them to hear the teacher’s response. So, in this learning environment especially, it’s vitally important that the teacher gives clear instructions, the student listens carefully and follows the instruction as closely as they can, then stop and listen for the teacher’s response. It’s also important that there is no background noise (for example, TV, washing machine, blender or coffee grinder!) that might confuse the software.
If you’re using the desktop version of Skype, please go to settings and switch off automatic adjustment, and set the level about 7 or 8, like this:
The lesson should take place in a public room.
Students up to the age of 18 must have their lesson using a responsible adult’s account, and under their supervision. Younger learners will need an adult to assist in a practical way during the lessons; pointing to notes on the page, or keys on the keyboard, for example.
At the end of the lesson, I will send you a link requesting payment. All you have to do is enter your card details.
In the light of yesterday’s government advice, “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others”, I need to make significant changes to the way I deliver piano lessons.
For the time being, I will no longer teach face-to-face lessons at my piano studio.
Like many other music teachers I will be happy to continue to give lessons via video call using FaceTime or Skype. Whilst this is a different way of working, it does present some helpful learning opportunities, and allows the student to maintain a sense of momentum in their progress. This is how individual teaching is proceeding at leading music colleges like the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Other learners may prefer to proceed by via video messaging, for example, using iMessage or Whatsapp.
To continue piano lessons via video call, you will need:
an Apple device with the FaceTime app
or any other device (laptop, tablet, phone) with the Skype app
Before the lesson:
Please check your email inbox as I may have sent some learning material that will need to be printed out
During the lesson:
Please have everything ready before the start of the video lesson
try to position the camera so that it shows your face and hands; make sure that there is sufficient lighting
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 responsible adult’s account, and under their supervision.
I’m grateful for advice recently received from the two professional organisations that I belong to: the European Piano Teachers Association and the Musicians’ Union.
The situation is likely to change, but in the light of advice currently available, this is how I will respond.
All visitors to my piano studio will be asked to wash their hands with soap and water on arrival – this includes students, parents and siblings. I will provide paper towels for hand drying.
I will continue to wipe down the piano keyboard at the start of every lesson. Anything that I need to demonstrate will be played on the Roland digital piano, rather than on the upright piano which will be played only by the student.
A box of tissues will be kept on top of the piano; tissues should be used to catch coughs and sneezes. Once used, tissues should be placed in the bin and hands should be washed again before the lesson continues.
If a student is unwell, or is required to self-isolate, it might be possible to deliver the lesson via Skype or Facetime. If this is the case, in order that we can proceed as normal, the video call will be between myself and a responsible adult (for example, a parent) who will need to be present throughout the lesson.
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