The world is now a patchwork quilt of countries in various stages of easing of restrictions or lockdown due to COVID-19. At this time there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation for how piano teachers should or should not teach.
As there are still so many uncertainties about COVID-19, there is a universal hesitancy to get back to business as usual.
In my costal region there is no community spread and the few cases that do pop up from international travel are quickly identified and contained. If (like me) you are lucky enough to live in a safe part of the world you may be considering teaching in person again, either fully or in part. Yet, because of the lingering possibility of spread, you may be wondering how to redesign your studio to minimize risk to your students and yourself. This post is for you.
Changes to student arrival
New this year, my students and parents will text from their vehicle upon arrival and wait there for my reply. I’ll send, “Meet you at the door,” when I’m ready.
On my door my student and their parent will see two signs:
- A health checklist of COVID-19 symptoms as a last-minute failsafe in case they should postpone this lesson for health reasons.
- A reminder that masks are required inside the porch.
At the door, I’ll touch the door handle and open the door to admit only the student. Parents and siblings will remain outside.
I and my student will both wear masks, but the parent won’t be required to. Conversation with the parent can take place safely within this distance. The parent will drop off the student at the door.
Once inside my porch the student can remove outerwear and shoes.
Next step, hand sanitizer.
This protocol for student arrival was developed to:
- Minimize the number of people entering my home and studio.
- Minimize the risk of COVID-19 droplets in shared air as distancing isn’t possible in my porch.
- Eliminate high-touch spots and frequent cleaning, as I’m the only one touching any surface, including door handles.
There will still be cleaning of door frames and door handles each day. However, as my family is using the same space, this protocol avoids contamination either way during teaching hours.
Distancing in the piano studio
With my former piano studio design, my student sat at my acoustic piano and I sat nearby in a chair within reach. My keyboard was off to the side for occasional play.
I didn’t think I’d be able to teach in person because I didn’t have room for appropriate distancing. Then, I decided to move everything around.
I’ve moved my piano and keyboard so they are side-by-side in the room, with the piano on an angle. My idea is that my student will play the keyboard while I teach from the piano. The distance from bench to bench is more than two metres (7 feet total), which exceeds the minimum requirement for social distancing. In addition, I’ve added a transparent mylar sneeze guard between.
I’ve set up a cozy corner for my students. The keyboard is full-sized, has weighted keys, three pedals and a sturdy book stand.
Even though it is my preference for my students to learn on an acoustic instrument, I feel this design accommodates all of the requirements I want to meet at this time. I’d like to fulfill our human need to socialize and learn together. To make that possible and protect my acoustic piano from the stress of frequent cleaning, it is my choice to ask my students to learn from a distance on a keyboard this year.
In the corner I have tissues, hand sanitizer, a waste basket and a sign explaining cough and sneeze etiquette.
Between myself and my student, I have hung a mylar sneeze guard.
I’m surprised and delighted how transparent it is. With the angle of the piano and keyboard, each has a clear view of the other’s hands.
Here’s a close-up view showing how we hung the mylar from the ceiling. We got a wooden dowel slightly longer than the width of the mylar sheet, wrapped the mylar around it and taped it in place with heavy-duty post office tape. We then hung it from plant hooks in the ceiling (we were lucky enough to make contact with the beams above).
At first we didn’t use the clothespins, but the sheet unstuck in the middle of the night! That was creepy! By the wobbly noise it made we thought someone had walked into it in the dark! So we added the clothespins for extra pressure and support.
As the lesson finishes…
At the end of the lesson, the parent will text that they’re waiting in their vehicle and I’ll text when to meet us at the door. The student and I will put our masks back on and I’ll lead them through the doors to the porch where they’ll put their outerwear back on, and I’ll let them out.
With this studio design I have achieved several goals:
- To be able to teach some lessons in person with appropriate safety measures.
- To be able to teach without wearing masks (for the most part). If there is a physical or technical matter to address I may approach the student, with both of us wearing masks for that moment in time.
- To protect my piano from frequent cleaning. I’ve decided that I’ll be the only one playing my piano this year.
- The sneeze guard is out of reach of the students to avoid them touching it. I’d like to keep it as transparent as possible.
To be continued…
This post is to be continued with a post on how I’ve changed my schedule to include both in-person and online lessons. My schedule avoids back-to-back students crossing paths in my studio and avoids adding time between students and lengthening my day. It is also flexible should I need to teach fully online or in person. Subscribe to my blog and be notified of every post!
Do you want to use the signs?
Free to download, the signs featured throughout this post have been made available by the Province of of Nova Scotia on their Resources Page.
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I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching! ❤
Video of the Week
One Hit Wonder (Late Elementary, Level 2), a lyrical piece with a lilt. From the print and eBook Rock this Town, 11 Elementary piano works, solos and duets that develop expressive playing and rhythmic drive! Or, check out the studio-licensed One Hit Wonder eSheet!
Fantastic post Rebekah! Thank you. I’m planning to do things just like this…but haven’t made it to the stage where I could take a picture of it all yet! That’s tomorrow’s project.
Thanks, Laura! You’ll have to take photos, too! All the best!
Thank you for this wonderful post and taking the time to provide such helpful visuals! I have been working on my set up for the same reasons and it is awesome to be able to see how you have done yours. I’m really struggling with teaching in a mask and also having to demo from the upright while the student is on the grand. Maybe I could try switching it. Where did you get the sneeze guard? Or did you make it?
Hi, Chee-Hwa, I’m so glad you found this helpful! If you click this link, you’ll see the mylar sheet I used. You may be able to find a similar product in the USA. Choose 2 mil thickness, 25 feet (and you may be able to share the same roll with other teachers and split the cost, or save the extra for replacement guards). https://www.carrmclean.ca/carmacr-polyester-encapsulation-film-rolls.html
Thanks for the info, Rebekah. How do you suspend the mylar?
Hi, Chee-Hwa, we bought a dowel (from a hardware store) slightly longer than the width of the mylar, rolled the mylar around it in a loop and taped it with sturdy transparent post office tape. We then hung the dowel from two spaced hooks in the ceiling (we were lucky and they screwed into beams). They’re the kind of hooks you’d use for hanging plants. It’s a bit of a homemade job but it looks fine and was very affordable. I’ll try to put a photo in the post. Hope this helps!
This whole set up looks so promising! Thank-you for doing so much to ensure we are all keeping each other safe! -Rob
Rob, thanks for being such a wonderful supportive piano parent! I look forward to our year together! – Rebekah
Such a good article – I have shared this with my pupil parents as I am prepping for back to my house lessons
Anne, I’m so glad you found this helpful! All the best with your lessons!
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