Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Transitioning Back to In-Person Lessons During/After the Covid-19 Pandemic

[Just for fun…here’s a selfie taken after chopping off 12 inches of pandemic-time hair and donating it to Wigs 4 Kids!]

Hello readers!

I hope you all are well. Here in Michigan, we are in the midst of BEAUTIFUL summer weather and it feels as if the worst of the pandemic is behind us (which I would certainly like to believe is true!). The current full vaccination rate in the state of Michigan is 46%, which is also the current rate in the U.S. as a whole (as of June 2021). In my local county, the full vaccination rate is even higher at 60% and the rate of reported Covid-19 cases per day is down to low single digits.

With these facts in mind, I have started transitioning a few of my students from online lessons to in-person lessons at my home studio. (You might recall — 75% of my students are in Ohio from before I moved and they will remain online.) I am taking a number of precautions, because I would much prefer to err on the side of caution and keep everyone healthy if I can help it!

In case you happen to be in the same position and might find this useful, below is the wording I used to communicate my precautions and expectations to parents via email.

Hello students, 

I just wanted to send a note to let you know what to expect when it comes to precautions for our in-person lessons. Even though the Covid-19 rates are low in Michigan right now, I'd still like to play it safe and err on the side of caution. I am excited to be able to be back together in-person with my students, and I hope you are too! 

Just so you know: My husband and I have both been vaccinated, and so has my mother-in-law who sometimes watches our 16-month-old daughter. 

And here are the precautions we will take here at my in-home piano studio:
- Please ask your student to use the bathroom at home before leaving home. But if needed, the bathroom here will be available to students. 
- Anytime 5 minutes prior to the lesson start time, students may be sent to the front door where I will welcome them. I prefer parents don't come indoors unless necessary, but we can chat on the porch before the lesson time starts if you'd like! During the lesson, parents are welcome to wait in the car or run errands. 
- An air purifier will run during the lesson time. Surfaces will be cleaned with antibacterial wipes between students. 
- When students enter, they should be wearing their mask (and I will be, too). Students will be asked to remove their shoes and wash their hands using hand sanitizer. We will use hand sanitizer again at the end of the lesson before I send them out to your vehicle. 
- Should the student (or anyone in the family) get sick or learn they were exposed to someone with Covid-19, please notify me. I would prefer to err on the side of caution and keep everyone as healthy as we can! And I am happy to accomodate an online lesson as needed for any weeks we decide not to meet in-person. 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns as we go along. 

Thanks so much! 

For any and all studio communication, I think it’s important to use a friendly yet professional tone and use clear, concise language — and that’s what I tried to do in my email above!

In case you haven’t seen it, there is a helpful resource from MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) you might be interested in checking out as well: Legal FAQs for Reopening Music Studios. Update: Also see MTNA’s updated version here.

PS: Stay tuned because tomorrow I will share a free printable poster for reminding students to remove their shoes, wash their hands, etc. when they arrive at your studio! Update: Visit this post to view the printable poster!

Your turn: How are lessons going in YOUR neck of the woods? Are you teaching online, in person, or both? I would love to hear from you! I’m sure we all have plenty we could share about our experiences over the past year or so.

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17 thoughts on “Transitioning Back to In-Person Lessons During/After the Covid-19 Pandemic”

  1. I live on an island off the west coast of BC, Canada. Although we have had cases and the studio has had to periodically revert to online lessons to protect the safety of everyone, for the most part, I have remained open to in-person lessons this year for the mental health of my students. A 15 minute break between inperson students (not online long distance ones) was scheduled to facilitate sanitizing and preparation for the next. I use a green welcome sign on the window when I’m ready and a red STOP ? sign when not. We have all worn face masks while inside and I have an air cleaner running as well as an open window in the studio.
    My question, and problem now, is one we will all need to address when scheduling live recitals again… should we handle those parents/adults who have chosen not to get vaccinated? I do not want to deprive them of the chance to see their child/family member perform, however, I’m not willing to have others’ risks elevated because of their attendance. Is this a legal issue?

    1. Nice idea about the green and red signs, Jacquie!

      And that’s a good question regarding live recitals. I haven’t thought ahead that far yet. I’ve been doing video recitals so far and will perhaps opt for an outdoor recital in my backyard next. It’s tricky even knowing who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t. One possible idea is organize the recital while being open about the possible risks for everyone and allowing students to opt in or opt out to the event. Another idea is to organize 2 or 3 smaller recitals, grouping the families according to their vaccination status and/or risk tolerance. Just brainstorming here…

    2. We had all families present at our spring recital with no masks required. No one asked about being vaccinated; and I didn’t quiz anyone. Those who chose “no-vaccine” take that risk willingly. If others have had the vaccine then the risk is not elevated for them. You can’t protect those high-risk, that will be their choice whether to come. It’s not a legal issue, only a matter of what you want to allow. Send a letter to parents asking them to wear a mask, if they will, for others safety.
      I would allow a group photo of your students without masks and also let them perform without a mask if they prefer, then put it back on. Trust your parents to make the choices best for their family. But don’t prevent them from attending recital. I wouldn’t force a parent or child to get the vaccine, that is not my right.

  2. Hi Joy! We’ve been in person since the beginning of May with hand sanitizer and wiping down the piano. It has been so good. I stress to my families to stay home if anyone is sick in their house and we will do online.
    One note, since I worked with students online, I convinced 7-8 families to upgrade their instruments to acoustic uprights and 3 upgraded to grands! Definitely a win!!

  3. Hello, Joy ! Thank you for your very useful statement for in-person lessons to students. I just started two students last week. All others are still virtual lessons but I really want to start in-person lesson as soon as possible. Only my concern is that once they start to go back to school without vaccine , I myself has also more risk and they have more chances as well. Do you take those students who are under 12 years old to your studio ?
    I also teach home lessons. Couple family do not want to vaccine and they want me to come back to lessons at their home. I am still not sure when I openly to go back as before. I was not doing well with virtual lessons during pandemic due to poor knowledge of technology and lack of good equipment. I am still trying to get more study of technology for those students who decided to keep virtual lessons. How many percentage of your students keep virtual lessons ? I will continue to develop my skills to teach online for long term. but I still love to teach with student in-person. Much much easier for me and for them, too.
    I hope to see you sometime soon. 😀

    1. Hi Sachiko! Nice to hear from you!

      Yes, I anticipate that it might be slightly more risky again in the Fall when school starts up. But I am hoping that the vaccination rate among those over age 12 will continue to go up so that we get close to “herd immunity” and also that perhaps the age limit for getting the vaccination will continue to lower. We’ll see. If we were to experience another big wave of Covid-19 cases, I am definitely open to switching back to the online format as needed.

      For now, yes, I am comfortable allowing kids under 12 in my studio with masks and the other precautions I described. I’m not sure if I would want to do any travel teaching in students’ homes. It’s really a personal decision, up to your own risk tolerance and comfort level! I wouldn’t hesitate not to do anything you aren’t 100% comfortable with.

      Would love to see you in-person again whenever we can!!

  4. I was fortunate that from the start of the pandemic half my students continued in person lessons and the other half were virtual. My transition was easy. By the end of summer 2020, everyone was back in the studio. Fall 2020 started like any other year, a studio full of eager musicians wanting to get back to in person lessons. Protocol consisted of washing hands before lessons and afterwards, and cleaning keys between students. No towels in the bathroom, only a basket of torn paper towels. Mask were optional until November when families started traveling more. I then required we all wear them. I did wear a mask whenever students came in with theirs on. My husband and I received our vaccines in Feb. and as of today, at least half my students have received theirs. and all my parents have been vaccinated. The highlight for the year was an in person recital with about 140 in attendance mid May. I polled all my parents and everyone agreed to it. I waited until my last week of lessons to have my recital. This gave everyone extra time to get their vaccine. Mask were worn until everyone was seated in their “bubble.” The church seats 600 so there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out. It was a perfect evening. I did not clean keys between students. Instead everyone was given a travel size Purell to sanitize their hands.
    I count my blessings that parents did not want lessons to stop. They were grateful for some form of consistency during this outbreak. They kept me inform if they had been in contact with anyone with the virus so that lessons would be virtual for a few weeks. We all worked together. We were even able to have small group classes (3-4) kids, participation in NFMC Festival-in person and collectively take the VMTA theory test.
    GOOD LUCK to all who will be going back to in person lessons. Fingers crossed life is getting back to normal. ?

    1. This is great to hear, Roma! Everyone’s experience through this has been so different. A lot of depends on the area one lives. It sounds like you and your piano families have been a great team, no doubt thanks to your leadership through it all!!

  5. Thanks for this, Joy! Perfect timing. 🙂 Here in Ontario, in-person lessons just became possible again yesterday, so I will be making the switch from online lessons starting next week. I’ll be sending this email – almost verbatim! – and posting one of your signs at my front door. Thanks again!

  6. What do you do about social distancing? For piano lessons, we usually have to sit mere inches from students, not 3-6 feet as the CDC is currently recommending for education settings.

    1. Good question, Rachel. Yes, it looks like the CDC is recommending students are placed 3 feet apart from each other in schools. I’m sure there are occasions during the school day where students temporarily come into closer contact with each than that (passing in the hallway, etc.). I’m keeping my distance from my students whenever I can, but I do feel safe occasionally coming in closer as needed during piano lessons thanks to the other precautions I’ve put in place. I’m lucky that my teaching room is spacious with high ceilings and I can run an air purifier and ceiling fan. I’m sure it’s not quite as good as being outdoors, but I do think I have pretty good airflow going.

      I know many teachers have set up plexiglass dividers between the teacher piano and the student piano in order to help with distance and airflow. That’s another option to consider!

      1. Thank you for your response! I teach lessons in my students’ homes, so I won’t be able to use plexiglass or have two pianos, unfortunately. I am currently taking a break this summer to figure out what the best option will be when I resume in the fall.

  7. Thank you, Joy, for starting this helpful discussion. I am considered “high risk” and have been teaching completely online until very recently, after becoming fully vaccinated. Thank to your previous articles, online lessons have worked great!

    About half of my students returned in-person in June and the other half are choosing to remain online. Currently, I require everyone to wear masks unless the entire family has been vaccinated. We use sanitizer before each lesson and I wipe down piano, door knobs, pencils, etc between each student.

    I do allow parents to come in as long as they wear a mask. With such nice weather lately, most parents opt to stay on the front porch and read.

    In addition to masks and sanitizing, I also made changes to the room to allow for social distancing. Parents who want to stay in the room during the lesson are seated at a small couch near the door. I set up a second keyboard six feet from the piano. (ten feet from the parents’ couch) The student sits at the real piano and I use the keyboard.

    An added bonus to using a second keyboard is that we can play duets while still safely distanced. Duets were the one thing that we couldn’t do online because of the time delay.

    Funny thing, kids don’t mind wearing masks, but many asked how I was going to safely give them their stickers. (I had been sending stickers in the mail during online lessons) At each student’s first in-person lesson, I give them a zip-lock bag of stickers and tell them that when they run out of stickers I’ll give them a new bag.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Annie! It sounds like you’ve got a great set-up going with your piano and keyboard. And yes, it’s so nice being able to duets again! Good idea with the stickers in the ziplock bag. 🙂 I also like your idea to have a chair on the porch for parents. I’ve been meaning to do the same, but I need to find a smallish chair that will fit on our small front porch. Thanks for the reminder to get on that!

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