Covid-19 Diary

Thursday, April 30

I came up with a timeline for the spring piano recitals for my students. It’s going to be difficult for everyone, since my students will be making recordings of themselves. I will then have to edit all of that together. Many students have never recorded themselves, so they don’t even know the process. Playing in front of people before, they’ve done that. Even the youngest one!

People are getting tired of confinement, but it’s going to be a long road back to normalcy. It’s really hard to make certain plans, even for summer lessons, since I’m not sure if they will continue online or eventually be in person. Since Arkansas is one of the lightest hit states, it will be interesting to see what our governor decides, as well as the local reaction.

Monday, April 27

Today starts the seventh week of online piano lessons. Instead of driving 10 minutes to Shepherd Music School in south-central Rogers, I spend about 10 minutes tidying up the space where I teach and setting up my technology to do the lessons. It’s a pretty simple set up, with just a single video camera (my iPad) that I mount on a microphone stand. There are lots of other little details, though. One is getting my props ready, like my Filofax for recording lesson notes, my dry-erase boards for showing notes on the staff, and having an assortment of music books within reach. I also recently added my brand-new melodica on a music stand, which I can show using my rear camera for close-up demos of fingering.

In my piano studio, we’re getting close to our year-end online recitals, though I haven’t set the dates just yet. I definitely need to do that this week! Many students are practicing more than usual, and have made quite a lot of practice. However, others are showing signs of easing off on practice, so a recital is always a good way to ensure a final push to the finish line.

Saturday, April 25

I started practicing tonight at the church for my series of Chopin Waltzes to be presented in May. Since we’re recording in advance, I have to be ready by Wednesday, April 29th, for the first installment. All of these are brand-new in my repertoire, so it’s practice, practice, practice!

Since I’ve spent so much time walking the hills and dales of the First Methodist parking lot, I decided it was time to kick off a new daily habit of walking, even if it was just a kilometer or so to start. I know that I can get back to some level of fitness, but it’s not going to happen if I don’t take the first step.

Wednesday, April 22

Today we resumed recording for church services in advance for Sunday. The process has changed quite a bit since we started. Originally, we broadcast live on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. Now, we’re recording bits and pieces of the service very much like a movie would be made, with just the necessary actors in the room. The pastors aren’t even there anymore; they record their bits at home typically. Our communications director then pieces all of the clips together to have it ready for the TV station and for the Sunday morning livestream.

Saturday, April 18

In an effort to regain some normalcy in my life, I decided to start eating breakfast on Saturday mornings at Chick-fil-A. It’s something I used to enjoy so much, but have gotten out of the habit of doing it. I’ve been purposely trying to get back to things that I used to enjoy so much, which still can be done. I do enjoy eating in the restaurant, but for now I just eat in my car.

Sunday, April 12

Easter felt so super weird this year. This is the second Sunday in a row that we have done pre-recorded and not live services, in an effort to get better broadcast quality. There was no pungent smell of lilies in the sanctuary, no Hallelujah Chorus sung by the choir, nor the Widor Toccata from Symphony No. 5 as a postlude.

Tuesday, April 7

Happy Easter, or at least that’s what we were saying when we were recording today at church. It is strange to record an Easter service before celebrating the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, but there it is! The entire service, including my music, was much more low key than you would expect an Easter service to be. We’re waiting until we can gather in person again to celebrate, but when exactly will that be?!

Saturday, March 28

I did some normal errands, like picking up my bread from amazing baker Annie Clapper of The Family Crumb, and enjoying lunch at Chick-fil-A. I also did some unusual errands, like picking up another bottle of hand sanitizer from Fox Trail Distillery. I was almost afraid of going back there, since people were not at all social distancing while on the very long line. However, they wisely changed it into curbside delivery. They traded safety for people with harmful fumes for the environment. You have to pick your battles!

Friday, March 27

I bought a new refrigerator without even going to a store. Sounds kind of crazy, yes, but these are the life and times of COVID-19. I even got a great deal on a model that was being discontinued, a basic Samsung French Door model. It was what the repairman ranked highest based on what he’s had to service. An equivalent with the Whirlpool brand was over $300 higher!

Thursday, March 26

I learned the bad news that my refrigerator was indeed going to need to be replaced, due to a leak in its sealed system. It was 11 years old, and I got almost 10 years out of it, for just $500. The previous home owner asked that reasonable amount to avoid having to move it to his new house.

Wednesday, March 25

I played another noon Lenten service at my church, with just the participants in the sanctuary. Since my church has streamed every service live since before I arrived, that part isn’t weird. I’m used to being accountable to a video camera, warts and all! It’s having no one in the pews that’s just hard to comprehend. I also got an appointment for my refrigerator tomorrow. Now, I must go home to clean my house!

Tuesday, March 24

After teaching, still waiting on an appointment for my refrigerator, I bought a tiny temporary refrigerator at Sam’s Club. It’s one of those college dorm-sized models that I remember, along with the hush-hush hot plate, which I had while living at the West Side YMCA while studying for my master’s at Juilliard.

I also bought another refrigerator thermometer, since I realize I need to keep track of both sides of my malfunctioning box. On my way home from all of this, I knew that I wasn’t up to cook a meal at home, so I stopped at Chick-fil-A. If you’re not from the south, you just don’t know what you’re missing to have his wonderful food available when you most need it!

Monday, March 23

I finally put the thermometer in the freezer I bought on Saturday, to find that my freezer thinks it’s a refrigerator, registering around 32F. My actual refrigerator is also running warm, at around 42F. To no surprise, I found that getting a repairman to visit was going to be tricky to schedule. Working from home is great, but unfortunately for this situation, my piano is in the living room, across from the open plan kitchen.

Teaching online has become easier, and what was weird last week now is becoming sort of normal. I heard from some other friends today with which I have been out of touch, including one fellow pianist/organist who sent me this lovely How are you? message. I hadn’t realized how lucky I was in my visit to NYC and upstate to my mom, which ended on March 8th.

At this point, I had already been back from there for 15 days, when the order came that anyone who had been in the NYC area and traveled elsewhere should isolate for 14 days. Plus, I read this really sad story in the New York Times about Party Zero, a 40th birthday party on March 5th that is now known to be responsible for wildly spreading COVID-19 in Fairfield County, where I made my home before moving to Arkansas.

Sunday, March 22

It was weird. No, it was perfectly surreal, to be sitting at home, in front of my computer, watching a worship service in which I should be participating. Due to my church’s streaming schedule, there was just contemporary music this week, so my services literally were not needed. Plus, my leadership made the smart decision to put the minimum number of people into a room as necessary to enforce social distancing.

Before teaching my actual students this week, I spent today doing some online learning for best practices in online teaching, and it’s really wonderful yet overwhelming all the advice being offered. One of my favorite newsletter writers, Kara Cutruzzula, offered the valuable tip that you should only consume free content if it’s something you would have previously paid to receive. Put that way, I started feeling less guilty about skipping lots of generous folks offering piano teaching Webinars and the different Live in HD full-length operas offered nightly by the Metropolitan Opera.

Saturday, March 21

Under the heading Better Late Than Never, I started taking seriously my very loud, clicking refrigerator, particularly on the freezer side. I purchased one of the few remaining refrigerator thermometers at Target, to see if my freezer was just a little warm, or really going bad.

I also caught up with sending lesson notes out to my online piano students. Even though the technology set up was difficult at first, the most time-consuming part was keeping track, on my end, of what my students were working on. Normally, I just write my students’ assignments in a spiral or steno book, and that then serves as a running record of what they are working on. It’s not a complaint, but just one of those weird things you wouldn’t think about in advance.

Friday, March 20

I finished up my last two online lessons for the week. Of my regular students, 12 out of my 14 have decided to do online lessons. That’s a major blessing. In the Facebook piano teacher groups I follow, some teachers are having the same high level of success getting parents to try online lessons. Others are find significant resistance, which is a real shame.

I stopped at Fox Trail Distillery, which is on Bellview just behind the Rogers Pinnacle Promenade Mall. They are offering free hand sanitizer as a public service. I don’t drink hard liquor, otherwise I would have bought one of their reasonably priced products as others did.

I finally found chicken at the Fresh Market! I needed dishwashing machine detergent, and grabbed one of the last containers on the shelf of Walmart Store 5260. I didn’t fare so well on my last item, dry milk. It’s one of the ingredients to making bread in a bread machine, but it’s also a hoarded item like toilet paper. Oh well.

Thursday, March 19

Thursday is my busiest teaching day, with five students, so this was really the test for how well online lessons would work. Plus, my first four students were on Zoom, with the last one on FaceTime. So, it was also a test of how flexible I could be at switching technology on a dime. All in all, it was a good teaching day.

Wednesday, March 18

I played my second online church service without congregation, which was our previously scheduled Wednesday at Noon Lenten service. There was no bulletin, just a simple order of who does what. It’s still strange playing for an empty church.

I went grocery shopping today, and was optimistic that chicken cutlets would be my reward for three visits to the supermarket. Nope. Why is everyone talking about toilet paper but not chicken?

I taught three more lessons today using FaceTime, and am preparing to teach via Zoom tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17

I Taught two of my youngest students, online, using FaceTime. It worked better than I thought. I put my laptop stand together, which I used as a platform for my iPad.

I tried for the second Tuesday in a row to find on-sale chicken at the Fresh Market, but it’s gone again.

Monday, March 16

I confirmed with Central UMC, which provides their music suite to Shepherd Music School, that we would not be welcome in the building for at least two weeks. Each teacher would have to decide whether to suspend teaching altogether, or to attempt to teach online. I canceled all of my Monday students, since I just wasn’t prepared to start teaching online yet.

Sunday, March 15

I participated in my first online service with no congregation. On my way home, I had a much-needed hair cut before such luxuries would be strongly discouraged or banned. Governor Asa Hutchinson was being pressured to close public schools, which he finally did, which then threw my piano-teaching business upside down.

Saturday, March 14

Everyone starting canceling meetings. First it was my local piano teachers’ group. Then it was my church, which decided to cancel all public activities and hold services strictly online. Only clergy and staff members were welcome on site.

Sunday, March 8

I arrived back home from my brief visit to NYC, including a visit upstate to my mom. During my day walking around the city, it was obvious this was no normal day. However, even though there was caution in the air, people were out and about on this very mild day. It felt almost normal, except with lots of hand washing and no Purell in the stores.