Updated: Mar 12, 2020
(Originally published 3/11/2020. Updated 3/12/2020.)
Where I live (the San Francisco Bay Area), residents have been watching and waiting for the novel coronavirus to make its way into the community. For weeks, it has only seemed inevitable, because we are one of the largest ports in the US and we are incredibly diverse. Many of our population have strong ties to Asia, including myself. My father and step-mom live in Hong Kong. His business takes him all over Asia, especially to mainland China. Many of us are only one or two steps away from someone who has been affected by this healthcare crisis.
And if you or your family hasn't yet been affected, then I'd like it to stay that way for as long as possible. I'm thinking of you, but I'm also thinking of your dad or elderly auntie. Or your students' extended family. I'm also thinking about how much our healthcare system here in the US really not prepared to take on if there is massive spread at the rate there was in China. Lives could be lost simply because the medical system could be overwhelmed. The best way to handle and to help is to slow the spread (#flattenthecurve) so that no one goes undiagnosed or untreated for lack of timely medical resources, and cases can be tracked down and isolated.
This graphic helps us to visualize possible outcomes. (Source: Christina Animashaun / Vox)
So how to proceed? Where I personally live, now is the time to act, as schools close and more companies ask their employees to work remotely. As music teachers, our mode of business (sometimes in a school or commercial space, sometimes based in our homes) is unique and requires creative thinking to adapt.
If there's one thing I've learned from my British husband, it's keep calm and plan smart... and communicate.
Everyone needs to weigh for themselves what their flexible plan is for themselves, the roles they play in their community, and the situation as it develops locally over time. I encourage you to think through your plan in regards to all of the roles you may play -- in work, in your family, and in your community. Whatever you decide, you're a leader. Your preparation or change in habits may save the life of another. Likewise, so might your decision to share resources with a colleague or neighbor in need, and you can only do that if you're prepared.
Once you have your flexible plan, talk to your people about it. It will help put them at ease and also understand what will change (ex. social distancing measures) and won't change (ex. access to great teaching) in their interactions with you and your business.
Here's what I'm saying to my people
So in that light, I thought I'd share what one little violin studio is doing to help. The rest of this article will contain actual updates on my own communications with my personal studio, the Alameda String Academy. I am grateful that as of last June we are no longer a school with 6 faculty and 80+ students, otherwise we would be in a very different place.
My purpose in sharing my direct communication is to give you an idea of how to gently but clearly prepare your clients for change, and to let them know that you have their best interest in mind as you make changes to your business that might seem uncomfortable.
Needless to say, I have received nothing but encouragement, solidarity and thanks from my families for taking clear measures to protect our communities at-large. You are welcome to adapt this for your own use if you find it helpful. (Please just drop me a line or leave a comment and let me know if you do, because it's great to know!)
Studio Correspondence RE Coronavirus
Updates are in chronological order. Last Update: 3/12/2020. (below)
RE: 3/9 Erica's Update: Covid-19
Dear ASA Families,
I'm reaching out to you to let you know that as a precautionary measure, I am preparing an online alternative to in-person lessons to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
At the moment, please plan to come to lessons as normal, unless you or an accompanying family member is ill. When you arrive, I ask that everyone entering the house please thoroughly wash hands right away.
This issue is of concern to me because of the close proximity I share with students and parents during a lesson, and where possible, I want to protect you as well as other students and my own family from possible exposure.
This is obviously a fluid and unprecedented situation, and I'll continue to monitor guidelines provided by the CDC and our local government to make adjustments to our plan as necessary.
I will follow up tomorrow with more information tomorrow regarding steps I am considering for the future. I appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate this issue together. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
RE: 3/10 Erica's Update: Covid-19
Dear ASA Families,
Thanks to those of you who have given me feedback on the possibility of virtual lessons. I am grateful to you for your cooperation and support.
In this email, I will share my thoughts and likely procedures in the case that this option makes sense moving forward.
My main intention is to protect you, other students, and my own family from possible exposure. We may not directly be part of the community that is at most risk, but we do have the opportunity to protect them and slow the growth of this virus by limiting contact -- while we wait for more facts come to light from the medical/science community. This is not to alarm anyone, but I feel a responsibility to prepare to take necessary actions on behalf of our elderly and vulnerable.
Here are two helpful guiding resources:
Obviously things may change as recommendations from the CDC and local government change, but for the time being I will continue to host lessons at my home for those who feel comfortable and are able to follow the guidelines I'll provide below.
Until further notice, the option to attend lessons in person is according to your comfort level. Feel free to attend unless you or an accompanying family member is ill. I may change this if needs arise.
In general (as with all lessons in normal conditions), if your child is too sick to attend school, they should not attend a lesson. They should also be 24hrs fever free.
If you are on the fence about your health or the health of your child, stay home and have a virtual lesson.
When you arrive, I ask that everyone entering the house please thoroughly wash hands right away. You are welcome to wash up as you leave, as well.
Please talk to your child in advance about social distancing. Elbow bumps and hand-waves rather than hugs. I will be limiting hands-on teaching primarily to uphold the CDC's encouragement for social distancing so it will be necessary to encourage your child to try to pay close attention to what they see me demonstrate, and to copy. For younger students, please practice coughing or sneezing while holding the violin. :)
Thankfully, while I was in Orlando this past week, I received timely training on distance learning from a highly successful violin teacher based in Canada, who teaches talented students from around the globe. I am very optimistic about the possibilities of this approach.
This is the best option if you or your student is ill or a member of your family is under quarantine.
Schedule a virtual lesson. Please let me know ahead of time via email or text (at least the morning of your lesson) if you wish to do a virtual lesson. It will (unless otherwise arranged) be at the same time as your normal lesson.
Zoom. Lessons will be set up on Zoom. I will send you an invitation with access code. All you need is a computer with a camera and microphone (in-built should be fine). Please arrive and log in a few minutes early so you are ready to go and in the Zoom waiting room when I finish with my previous student.
Backup technologies. In case there are any technical difficulties, I ask that you also have Skype and/or Google Hangouts uploaded.
PDFs. Please send me a PDF of your student's assignment and music in advance of the lesson. I will annotate it and send it back with a new assignment sheet at the end of the lesson. You can either print that out, or transfer the markings to your own music.
Prepare your kiddo. Please speak with your child in advance about their upcoming lesson and practice of how to stand with their instrument in front of the computer.
Let's take this one week at a time. Text me if you need anything. For now, please let me know if you wish to have a remote lesson. Please do continue to cancel lessons through the portal if you genuinely need to cancel, so someone else can take your time. Please keep in mind that this is a fluid situation that requires a flexible plan. I will continue to give you updates to this as needs arise.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out.
From my family to yours,
RE: 3/11 Erica's Update: Covid-19
Dear ASA Families,
Out of an abundance of caution, I have decided to move all lessons to virtual until further notice. That means that tomorrow, Thursday 3/12 will be virtual. This has come sooner than I thought, but it just makes sense -- and it has helped reduce stress for the families who have already tried it. That's worth a ton.
Here’s what’s next:
Please reply to this email to confirm that you have received this message.
Zoom. I will send you an invitation with access code. All you need is a computer with a camera and microphone (in-built should be fine). Please set up and log in a few minutes early so you are ready to go and in the Zoom waiting room when I finish with my previous student.
Backup technologies. In case there are any technical difficulties, I ask that you also have Skype and/or Google Hangouts uploaded. (Skype: ericawardmusic / Google Hangouts: firstname.lastname@example.org)
PDFs. Please send me a PDF of your student's assignment and music in advance of the lesson. Separate files for each piece is best. Shortly, you’ll receive your child’s personal Google Drive folder via email. If you’re able to upload PDFs directly to that folder, it will save me a lot of time. I will annotate the music during the lesson and upload it, along with a new assignment sheet at the end of each lesson. You can either print that out, or transfer the markings to your own music. Keeping printouts of these notes and annotated music in a notebook is not a bad idea.
Prepare your kiddo. Please speak with your child in advance about their upcoming lesson and practice how to stand with their instrument in front of the computer. For some fun, test it out with them! You’ll want to place the stand off to the left side of the camera, so that they can point the scroll toward it, and have the f-holes facing the camera (like it’s the audience).
I realise that there are a lot of changes happening for each of your households right now, and my heart goes out to you all. There may be hard decisions each of us will face, but you are not alone. Please remember that my family is here to serve you, and our ASA community will remain strong. If you need anything in the coming weeks, please don’t hesitate to reach out, whether or not it’s music-related.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Text is really the best way to reach me at the moment.
Sign up for BackstageForum, to get first-dibs access to the resources all versatile teaching artists need to adapt to change and grow their business.