Soon after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, the music school where I teach – the Rock Academy – taught me to use Zoom as a means of continuing to give lessons to my six students.
I’m usually enthused about new tech, but prior to March 2020 I’d participated in only one FaceTime call, and never a Skype call, Google Hangout, or any other “teleconferencing” medium. Even as I’d been excited as a young science-fiction fan about the prospect of telephones with screens (as per 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, et al), when the science finally arrived, I balked at it.
I’m not sure why I was reluctant. As a performer, a ham, it seems I would jump at the chance to be broadcast. Was it vanity that kept me away? Because unless I position the phone or laptop just so, I look very much like my grandmother (especially with my graying “pandemic hairdo”)? Maybe.
Or is it just that I am better at – and thus, deeply enjoy – conveying the totality of my thoughts through writing (like now), or communicating with just my voice, no visual information added? (I give very good phone, preferably landline.) Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.
But the virus doesn’t care about any of that. It gave me little choice if I was to keep making an income, doing my civic duty, or talking to my doctor about the two ticks embedded in my thigh.
Three months into the pandemic, I’ve given approximately 100 Zoom lessons – to Rock Academy kids and my adult students; I’ve led several singalongs to preschoolers beaming in from kitchens, living rooms, and dens, where they danced with pets and parents; I’ve had my first telemedical doctor’s visit via FaceTime, and attended several Google Hangout school-board meetings; I’ve performed four times on a platform called StageIt; I’ve uploaded to social media about 60 iPhone videos of myself playing songs in my bathrobe; I played a surprise birthday party for an old friend’s wife, my version of Matisyahu’s “One Day” journeying from Shandaken to Tel Aviv.
As Ulster County enters phase four of the pause, I am beginning to see a time when I will finally be able to once again sit across from my students – six feet, with masks – and teach them to make music; I will be performing/teaching at two summer camps – all outside; I am discussing an outdoor performance of my one-man show, under the stars.
I am looking forward to these things the way a child looks forward to Disney World.
Meantime, despite my middle-aged-person lack of enthusiasm, Zoom, Google Hangouts, et al, aren’t going anywhere, of course. And frankly, at the end of the day I am so glad the tech was in place when the shutdown hit – not just for financial reasons, but because, despite my peevishness, I’ve been uplifted to see those faces, sequestered away in charming little rooms scattered throughout the Hudson Valley.
A couple of my students, in fact, have made great strides in lockdown, and even seem to prefer not having me sitting across from them. And if ever I, or my students, have a head cold or some such thing, we can still do our work.
I may not ever love it as I thought I would, but I will allow the tech I’ve been forced to embrace has been a good thing. My main worry now is how giddy I will be when I am once again enjoying the priceless person-to-person contact it replaced.