I Burst Into Tears
I was absolutely fine. At least I thought I was. I'd just finished teaching three successful online lessons in a row to students I adore. Then I burst into tears.
I wasn't with them. I couldn't touch them. I could see them but I couldn't reach them. I was exhausted. I was devastated.
I think it was teaching Charlotte the first Bach Prelude in C Major and not really being able to hear the magic as she first put together those chords and then activated the harmony in sixteenth notes. Or was it just imagining her cooped up for days on end with her big sister? Or knowing that none of us know when it's going to end?
Is it that I've worked my entire life to have a studio I love, set up just the way I want it, stocked full of props and stickers and music and music and more music. Right now that beautiful studio isn't useful to me in any way.
I usually live in San Francisco, but right now I'm sheltering-in-place at my partner's home about sixty miles north of the city in a town whose population is either 109 or 171, depending on which sign you believe. It's tiny. That's why we came here. It seemed smart to be in the smallest, least populated place while trying to ride out a pandemic. Thank goodness we brought a Clavinova up here a few weeks ago so I have a usable digital piano to teach from.
Which is what I'm beginning to do.
I don't want to. I want to be at home with my stuff and my studio and my students. But that isn't my life right now and it isn't anyone's life right now. We are all doing the best we can in difficult circumstances.
I know that I could just say, "Hmm...this isn't what I signed up for. I would like a break. I'll stop for a while."
But that isn't what I want to do. Even though this is hard, really hard, I know that it's the right thing to do.
Here's why I believe that's true.
Music heals. Music soothes. Music expresses that which cannot be expressed in words. At no time in these children's lives have they needed music as much as they need it right now. I may need to hobble together their lessons with technologies like Zoom and FaceTime and who knows what, and sometimes the sessions will break up and I won't have the right scores and they won't be able to hear me. Things will go wrong. It's going to be messy.
When things get messy and painful and scary is exactly when music is the only language that's adequate. It's the one we can use to express our frustrations, our dreams and our love for each other.
I don't want to do this. I really don't. But I'm going to suck it up and figure it out. I'm going to write new pieces and puzzle out how to teach music when it feels like I'm starting from scratch. I was in the most comfortable phase of my career. Now I'm suddenly not. I didn't ask for this.
It's important to remember that the kids didn't ask for this either. They didn't ask to be separated from their friends and their school. They don't want to miss their school plays and soccer games and science projects. They're heartbroken to have everything they've been looking forward to cancelled. Everything. And they're cooped up in their homes with their parents who are trying desperately to do everything they did before and also be their child's caregiver and teacher. There's no buffer for anyone.
What can we do?
I can only tell you what I'm doing.
I'm making sure they see my smiling, reliable face. I'm showing up for them in the way they need me to show up. I don't care if their fingering is wonky or if their rhythm isn't perfect. I just want to help them keep making music. They need music right now. More than ever.
We all do.