BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A couple of weeks ago, Birmingham piano teacher Heather Byars was prepared for a few slower days with spring break just around the corner.
But with the statewide school cancellations due to the coronavirus, she quickly realized that it may be much longer before she teaches her students in person again.
“Like many people, I really was shell-shocked. It really quickly hit that it may be a long while,” she said.
At first, she emailed students to assure them she’d be disinfecting piano keys and doorknobs, but many students responded that they couldn’t come because they were too scared. And as the social distancing measures became stricter, she knew she needed a more permanent solution to keep teaching.
Byars said her brother and sister, who have online business and computer experience, gave her a crash course last Saturday on how to set up a Zoom video conferencing call so she could continue teaching piano to her students in the coming weeks.
“I sent an email to my students and said, ‘This is what we’re doing, we’re instantly doing video lessons with no trial, just trouble shooting as we go,’” Byars said, laughing.
Nearly all 50 of her students, who range from age 4 to 76, have been on board and are excited to keep learning the piano.
“I’ve been so amazed with my kids, because I really thought that many people aren’t going to try, but everyone got on at their lesson time,” Byars said.
She says her students have all been so adaptable to video lessons, even her senior citizens, who have introduced her to their spouses over the video chat.
For her school age students, Byars is grateful she can offer a sense of normalcy to their weekly schedules, which have been disrupted indefinitely due to coronavirus concerns.
“Adults are in the background panicking but kids are like ‘OK, I’ll have my lesson on an iPad, no problem,’” she said.
And for many parents who are working from home, Byars said it’s likely a little bit of relief for their children to have their piano lesson at their usual weekly time.
Byars’ students had a recital scheduled for May 3, but with so much uncertainly due to the virus, it’s likely it will be canceled. She’s currently researching ways her students could do a virtual recital, possibly a Facebook Live concert or having each student record their song and share it on YouTube.
“When I start panicking myself, I remember that we are literally all in this together. I think it’s going to take all of us pulling our ingenuity together and extending grace and understanding to each other,” she said.
Her new motto for her students is perfectly fitting for this time: “We never miss a beat.”
You can find out more about Heather Byars’ lessons and the Birmingham Keyboard Arts Center at https://www.bkac.net.