The Arts, The Pandemic, and These “Online Times”

By Liz Couture
September 10, 2020

The arts  have taken a turn in our lives in the same way that many other things have these days. The coronavirus pandemic has placed a constriction on my small business, a music school, and so this article is just a reflection on the positives I see in my work, in spite of the changes.

Children and Performing Arts

Changes in our lives happen all the time, and we learn to become accustomed to it. The government shutdown in March 2020 was the impetus that made me change the way I teach piano lessons. We started using Zoom, and my learning curve included iMovie, Keynote, YouTube, iCloud, and Google Classroom. There are 6 kids in the music class, and we sing and beat instruments and compose and learn to read and play piano music. Our in-person lessons usually include props, teaching aids, and music games to make it more interesting for the kids. When I knew that I had to change to online lessons, I thought that something would be lost as we communicated in cyberspace, but I realized that this was not exactly the case.

Music is an art that allows our souls to express themselves. We write songs about our love, our gratitude, our best friend, our favourite past times. The communication from teacher to student to bring out the students’ creativity and ideas still happens through Zoom. Certainly, some tips and tricks had to be learned, in order to know whose turn it was to play at any given time. The “My Turn/Your Turn” signals and the “Mute” option were used often. The lessons were dubbed with special categories, such as “Crazy Hat Day” and “Treasure Hunt Day”. We still worked toward our goals of preparing for “Mock Exams” and performing in a year-end recital.

The parents of the students were really a blessing in this process. They agreed to join our Google Class, so that written assignments could be passed back and forth, and videos of instruction and homework practiced could be viewed on the screen. They continued to attend the lessons, as they always do for this music programme, but their big job now included the adjustment of the smart phone or tablet to properly view the child’s hands on the keyboard.

The children were full of smiles when we would conclude a “who practiced the most minutes” game. It was fun to make a joke and tell them all the points they accumulated for practice over time was now being converted to money! Now, the next part of the game is that “Mom or Dad should buy you something for that amount of points, ahem, money!”

As always, we learned nice songs and piano music, some requiring more skill and perseverance than others, but I was always happy and proud of all the efforts put forth by the children and the parents. My spirit was raised, when a parent would send me a private email and tell me that “Ms. Liz, you are starting to be like a real videographer”! Happy me…..

Music lessons are about the happy teamwork we have with the parent, child and teacher. Music lessons are about setting goals and reaching them and encouraging the rest of the class to meet them as well. We are like a team, in a way, because we want everyone to perform well in our mini-recitals and flash-cards game! Music lessons are especially about expressing ourselves and using our creativity to explain a concept so that all the different “little people’s” minds could understand. Even though we did our lessons online and continue to do so, I think we still were able to experience and enjoy what music lessons are really all about, and I am grateful for that!

Liz Couture, ARCT, MYCC
Piano Teacher, “Music for Young Children” program