Musings on Keeping a Positive Perspective During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Is you Inbox overloaded with emails titled “Person/company name’s response to COVID-19″?

Are you feeling a little bit like you’re in the Twilight Zone?

Do you just want to make it all go away and get back to normal?

Is one side of you glad to know that “we’re all in this together,” and another part of you tired of hearing the phrase already?

Yeah, me too.


Strong Declarations

Over the past week as posts on Facebook have ramped up regarding online lessons, we’re seeing success, generosity, and encouragement, but also escalating anxiety and even negativity.

Several posts popped up of people expressing their frustration with online lessons and in the heat of those frustrations, they declared them to be “worthless.”

Really?, I wondered…


Stay with me.


A Positive Outlook

One of my projects during this Spring Break week was to go through photos of our grandparents as the first step in a “family photo wall” project.

As I was looking at photos and simultaneously “chewing” on all that’s happening in our physical world and teaching world, I was reminded of my sweet grandmother’s disposition.

She played the organ and was very laid-back. Not many things ruffled her feathers. I can still hear the way she said “Well….” and left the thought trailing with a little giggle.

(Everyone always said we looked alike. After she passed away, I scoured through photos finding fun comparisons. Do you agree?)



Not only do I look a lot like my grandmother, but there’s a side of me that has the same disposition as her.

So, when all this pandemic stuff started, my natural reaction was to remain calm, shrug my shoulders and think “well…ok.”

Does that mean that I’m not 100% aware of what’s going on? No.

Am I taking all of this seriously as you all (hopefully) are? Yes.

Is my easy-going attitude toward the current state of the situation meant to undermine what others may be going through? Absolutely not!

People’s lives – everyone’s lives – are being affected now and will continue to be in the weeks, months, and perhaps years to come.

This is serious stuff.

I just hope to encourage you today to keep as much of a positive perspective as you can in all of this.

What’s the first step? Acknowledge and accept our new reality.

What is our new reality? Online lessons.

Are online lessons a different venue than in-person lessons? Obviously.

Should we expect them to be exactly the same? Nope.

Is it OK to express frustration (at first) that they’re not? Absolutely!

But can we determine to take that frustration and find ways we can be creative and stretch our creative teaching skills (or maybe even simply be OK to simplify our teaching in a way)? Let’s do it!


A Fresh Perspective

The downtime of Spring Break this week for me has meant it’s time to catch up on podcasts.

A few days ago I was listening to Freakonomics – a fun and interesting podcast that focuses on (you guessed it) economics (but in a relatable way).

In a recent episode, The Side Effects of Social Distancing (Ep. 409), Toby Moskowitz, professor of finance and economics at Yale University had this to say regarding online learning:

“I find if you’re just teaching facts and methods – that can be done almost as well online as it can live. You could argue maybe even better online because you can supplement it with video materials and you can record it, right, and get it perfect.

If you’re trying to teach someone how to think and you’re trying to teach them, let’s say, how to do research or how to ask an interesting question and get a scientific answer – that’s much more hands on. “

YES! That’s it. That’s our answer.

Unless you have a fancy online teaching setup with multiple cameras and a great internet connection, yes it can be hard to teach expression and technique but it doesn’t mean online teaching is worthless.

Maybe it’s a good time to teach more facts and music-mind skills and worry less about shaping a phrase perfectly.

How about some of the things we often complain we don’t have enough time to incorporate?

Games, sightreading, harmonizing…

So in your online lesson, do a little repertoire work – focus on a couple of points in each piece then…focus on the facts.

  • Drill intervals – have the student name and/or play and cycle through as quickly as they can through 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths.
  • Talk about and practice the circle of 5ths.
  • Play root chords in the circle of 4ths.
  • Drill chords M-m-M-Aug-M-m-Dim. (Do that in inversions!)

The list goes on and on.

In short – let’s think outside the box.

I’m keeping things simple for now. My setup is like Joy Morin.

I’ve gleaned a few simple but great online-teaching ideas like those mentioned above from my friend, Melissa Willis.

After a couple of weeks of online lessons, I’ll re-evaluate and go from there.

That’s all we can do.

  1. Acknowledge.
  2. Accept.
  3. Adapt.
  4. Teach.
  5. Re-Evaluate…

…and pray that this all passes quickly. Hang in there, friends!



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