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  • Piano/Music Lessons Amid Covid-19 pandemic (All Teachers)

     Matthew Rusk updated 1 year, 2 months ago 4 Members · 6 Posts
  • Emma Willcox

    July 13, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Are we able as tutors to teach one-to-one lessons in person or will piano lessons need to be taught virtually? Is it a question of personal preference? If I am able to teach in person then would it suffice for myself and my student to wear facemasks, use hand sanitizer, ventilate the room well and disinfect the piano keys and surfaces of the teaching room between each student? Thanks!

  • Matthew Rusk

    July 14, 2020 at 6:39 am

    Hi Emma,

    Thanks so much for the post. Great question, I have general guidance that might be of interest – have a read of an email that a drum teacher sent me last week that might be of interest on this subject (shared with his permission):

    “I spoke to the Musician’s Union Education adviser yesterday and she said that, although for most teachers teaching from home is still not allowed, my circumstances are slightly different in that my studio is a separate building, and pupils do not need to come through the house to access it. Plus I have a separate toilet for customers as well. So they think I’m ok to re-open in line with other small businesses, studios etc, as people can now travel unnecessarily to non-essential shops etc, provided that the 2m rule is observed (I’ve measured and it’s just possible for me to close the studio doors while they stand right in the corner!). I am also observing several other precautions too – quietening down the snares with t-shirts and not sharing headphones/headset mic between pupils like I used to (instead monitoring click and backing tracks through a PA system as safe volumes), not having pupils touch door handles, or anything at all except their own sticks (which they have to bring), handling sheet music with gloves etc.

    I texted all my pupils the news last night, and there hasn’t exactly been an overwhelming response! One or two got back to me saying they have injuries but may be able to return in a few weeks (including one of your referrals), and I let the new potential referral you sent a couple weeks back know (although he has since booked with someone else but made out he may still give me a try..). So either lots of pupils aren’t comfortable returning and/or (my fear is..) lockdown has been such a break in momentum I may have permanently lost several pupils… Will have to see how things pan out, but will let you know.”

    There are useful updates on ISM as well here:

    I was also emailed by another teacher who had contacted the MU on the 24 June that said “Given the government has allowed theatres to open, but not for live performances, I’m doubtful the current guidelines would allow face to face singing teaching, even with social distancing”. They recommended keeping updated via the newsletter here:

    This is the article I have been using most recently as the basis of my advice: – I think this will help answer your question of when you can choose to start offering in person lessons again.

    In regard to steps to take everything that you mentioned sounds very sensible and a good approach to reduce risk. Additionally, a lot of the teachers I have spoken with are using screens between them and the students (easier for guitar than piano) and face screens for singing – piano has its own challenges in regard to this as usually both the student and the teacher access the same instrument, sitting quite closely together – so some thought might be needed in how best to approach this and whether a screen could be used effectively in this situation. I will ask one of the piano teachers who is a good friend of mine if he is able to share his thoughts on this post on how he will approach the question of the best way of restarting piano teaching again and the steps he might take to try and make the environment as safe as possible. I hope the above is useful, do post up more questions here and I will gather as much evidence as I can and useful links to help answer the questions as I am sure many teachers will be interested in finding out advice about this.

    Kind regards,


  • Matthew Rusk

    July 14, 2020 at 8:20 am

    I read this article this morning as well Emma, it has some advice about cleaning instruments:

  • Alan Tang

    July 14, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Hello Emma. I am a piano teacher based in Leicestershire. I am also shielding due to medical conditions so the decisions that I am taking or have taken I have thought about. I am also a PT school teacher in a school in Coventry and have helped support Senior Management with music lessons in schools. 

    From a school perspective, it is going to be a tricky situation as any lessons involving singing or using woodwind/ brass instruments will not be allowed for at least the first 6-7 weeks. However, I have pointed out that using other classroom instruments from keyboards to ukuleles to tablets to percussion will also carry risks. Though a final decision has not been made, I have to have in the back of mind lessons that will involve NOT using any instruments at all. The alternative is surfaces/ instruments used are wiped before and after each lesson/ session. With that said, the final decision will be made by Senior Management and any risk assessment produced will continue to be a live document.

    I have used a lot of this information and thought about how this affects my lessons. On the days that I work at school (Monday to Wednesday) I teach afterwards at homes. However, I have had initial discussions with these students and have pointed out my concerns about travelling from a school to home to home to home. This would also affect my students that I teach other days where I go to different homes but there is potentially ‘less risk’ with individual homes. At this point, I would like to say I am not medically trained but am speaking from the health and safety of myself and my students. Also, about 80% of my students are in the locked down areas of Leicester at the moment and there is uncertainty when this lockdown would be lifted or otherwise.

    At this current point, all my students have been completely understanding with this current situation but the majority of them have declined virtual lessons as they felt the face to face contact is far more successful. Those that have opted for virtual lessons, I will be continuing them for as long as they are successful. I am currently working with 2 students who are preparing for Grade 1 and Grade 2 respectively and it seems that they are practising more and working more effectively. Though this may be due to the fact that there is the time for them to practice!! With these lessons we keep to a designated time and once the lesson is finished I have a brief discussion with the parents and then send a WhatsApp/ text message of what was covered, almost like a virtual notebook.

    With the remainder of the students, I have made the decision to not start until at the earliest mid August. And this will be a phased start for myself as I increase my student interaction gradually. My first people I will hopefully be teaching will be those that are not in the locked down areas. From knowing these parents/ students quite well I am aware of their jobs & circumstances so I am less concerned of risks. I have initially contacted them and made them aware of my potentially start week. I have also consulted ISM (a link that Matthew Rusk shared in earlier posts), Musician’s Union and other workers (like cleaners/ mobile pet groomers) who are in similar situations. I will also do my own risk assessment of the teaching room and ensure that when I am teaching I am at least 1 metre away from the student. Based on my experience of virtual lesson this is feasible. If I am required to demonstrate to the student, I will play with very thin gloves or play and wipe the surface straightaway and clean my hands with antiseptic gel. Alternatively, I could film a section of music and show the student on a tablet as part of the lesson. In terms of payment, I will encourage parents to pay by transfer but if they are paying by cash I’ll request for it to be in an envelope/ money bag and then I’ll leave it at home for 48 hours, etc. 

    My intention is to NOT wear a mask as I don’t want to ‘scare’ younger students but bring in my own chair (camping chair), my own wipes stationary and antiseptic gel for all my lessons. Depending on the number of homes I am going to I would consider bringing a change of clothes. However, this of course has an impact on time, etc. 

    For the odd student that would consider coming to my own home. I only had 2, I would offer them advice but ultimately they have to be comfortable with this. I would have plenty of ventilation in my office. My piano/ piano stool/ door handles and any other surfaces would be wiped down before and after the lesson. 

    For the remainder of the students I have that are currently in the locked down area, I am taking a different stance. During the week I tend to teach in postcodes/ specific areas which will limit my travel time. For example Wednesday evenings after school I am based in Oadby. I consider for the parents do, i.e. the 3 students that I teach in Oadby, their parents are doctors. I consider their living arrangements and as horrible as it sounds how clean their house is. At this stage I would promote my online teaching where I would teach the student virtually 3 times a week and then on the 4th week I will visit them for a 1-2-1 lesson. This is rotated with this area so I there only have one 1-2-1 lesson each week. I hope that makes sense! I still continue to bring my own chair, stationary, etc to the lesson. 

    For those that are wanting face to face lessons I take in other considerations child or adult, area of where lesson is and medical conditions. This will determine when I begin phasing the lessons in. For example, on Monday’s I have 3 lessons in the Narborough Road area: 2 adults and 2 children. The likelihood is I would do 1-2-1 teaching with the adult as he prefers this and he is working virtually, the second adult I will continue virtual lessons. This student prefers face to face but she works as a pharmacist and her husband is a doctor. The two children I would phase once school has started and see how lessons are being delivered at school. One of the parents has a medical condition which affects the day to day running of the house so regular updates and contact with them is quite important.

    I hope this helps but a lot of the decisions that I have made/ will be making does have a financial implication on myself. I think I am fortunate that working at a school has enabled me to continue to have an income but I realise that musicians/ music teachers have really come under a lot of financial pressure due to this. My decisions are ultimately based on my own health and risks I face, the homes that I go to and the potential risk they pose and how an individual student will react to these changes. 

    It is quite likely you may need to do more preparation, e.g. playing and recording parts/ scales to show students and administrative tasks but ultimately, it boils down to the health of me personally, and the health and safety of the students that I teach.

    Good luck with everything


  • Roda Odari

    July 14, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    This is indeed a tricky time to be teaching. I have had a few students quit lessons as they don’t want to go virtual. However, I have not resumed teaching from home because my room is small and parents normally come in with siblings to listen in, making my exposure greater. So, I intend to continue teaching virtually until mid October, if things remain as they are. When I do open, like most have suggested, I will only allow one person at a time, meaning parents/siblings have to sit in the car to wait. I have a big window which they can watch me teach from. I also have a separate toilet for my students. I have removed all rugs to the entrance of the house so I can mop/disinfect the floor at the end of the day (door handles included). I have also removed music books so there is limited furniture in the room. Additionally, I will provide hand sanitiser on entry to the house and clean the piano between teaching each student. Face masks are a given. It’s about protecting each other.

    Finally, I will have a phased return of students, which should take me to December. I plan to start with my older students first as they don’t interact with children(I work in a school). I will then have students return on a two week cycle until I feel safe and everyone feels safe as well. Unfortunately, COVID is here for a while and your health and that of your family is the most important… then there’s your community and everyone else who we need to protect. If at all in doubt, I would definitely urge caution. There is no margin for error here!

    Good luck!  

  • James Barnett

    July 14, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Emma,

    This is a good question – I’ve been thinking carefully about it myself, being a piano teacher too. I’m not going to return to in person lessons until the end of August but according to the Musician’s Union (MU) we can start in person lessons now either at home or in a studio and we’ll still be covered by their public liability insurance:

    I’m staying online at the moment because it seems to be working well for most pupils and the risk is of course zero! I’m monitoring the pandemic closely and looking at the effect the recent relaxation of lockdown rules has on the virus prevalence before making a firm decision about resuming in person lessons. I’ve sounded out pupils and they seem happy to be guided by me on this

    Before I do resume, I’ll carry out a risk assessment in which I’ll consider the following:

    Social Distancing (will this be possible in my teaching environment? you’ll need to be at least 2 metres away from pupils – I think your idea of facemasks is a good one – I wasn’t going to but given that we now need to wear them in shops it’s probably wise)

    Cleaning (Like you say we’ll need to be cleaning everything thoroughly in between students – everything that has been touched!). Pupils need to wash hands on arrival. 

    Students (Are they in an at risk group? – I’ll encourage them to stay online if so. I’ll encourage those who do attend to travel to lessons safely – avoiding public transport etc). I’ll encourage everyone who is coping well with online lessons to stay online!

    The other thing you need to consider is instruments – this is particularly the case with the piano as we share the instrument. The MU says that large instruments like the piano should have a strict cleaning regime in between lessons. I’ve got a stage piano that I use at gigs which I’m going to set up at least two metres away. I’ll demonstrate using this instrument. I don’t think we can or should use the same instrument as our pupils in lessons at the moment but I’m not sure – the guidance is not clear. I’d recommend you not doing so if possible, but I realise not everyone has access to another instrument!) Is it something you could invest in if not? Doesn’t have to be amazing – just something that does the job.

    I hope all goes well whatever you decide!


  • Matthew Rusk

    July 15, 2020 at 6:43 am

    To pick out a quote that might be useful from the article James shared above:

    If you are a private tutor and normally offer provision in your own home or another home, this is now allowed in England under the updated guidance and your Public Liability Insurance is valid for this work.
    Before restarting your provision, it is important that:

    If you are based in premises which have been closed for several weeks you have confirmed with the owner that all health and safety compliance checks have been renewed. If you are the owner then you should refer to the Government’s guidance on managing school premises during the coronavirus outbreak.

    You carry out a revised Risk Assessment in line with HSE guidance, identifying protective measures.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by  Matthew Rusk.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by  Matthew Rusk.
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