This was an interesting week as I returned to campus to teach my students. With a month left of classes and juries (final playing exams for music students) and exams, I knew that my students needed more than perhaps I could give them over Zoom.
Please don’t misunderstand; I am grateful to have been able to do my job virtually to keep everyone safe, but clarinet just doesn’t always transfer well over the computer. I have an excellent setup, but most of our students don’t have decent microphones and cameras. I could have the best sound equipment in the world and it still wouldn’t matter. But, hey, we’ve all done the best we could with this very strange situation…and sometimes the best we can do just isn’t good enough. I will say that I have learned so many things during this time- including new pedagogical tools that will inform my teaching long after the pandemic has passed (it just feels so good to even type those words!). There is always some light in the darkness, isn’t there?
It felt so strange being back in the music building again, especially poignant with the wonderfully pre-pandemic chaotic sounds of music making and chatter of students filling the halls gone. I could hear the sounds of the jazz ensemble rehearsing down the hall, but everything else was so quiet except for seeing a few of my colleagues. Talking with my friends and colleagues was both strange and wonderfully normal; I’ve mostly seen everyone on a computer screen during monthly faculty meetings for months now.
The biggest jolt to my system was finally teaching in person again. I didn’t realize just how much I have missed actually seeing my students face-to-face and hearing them play for me in my studio. I felt rusty at first, but then my well-used teaching muscle sparked to life and everything just felt right. No more dropping or distorted sound, no more sound delay, and, most importantly, my wonderful students with their smiles and excitement about being together again. I knew that I had made the right decision, reinforced by the strict safety protocols in place on campus. It was time.
It felt like part of me was back from a long absence, over a year of being a musician who can’t perform or do my work in the way I know best, all thanks to an invisible foe that has taken so heartbreakingly much from so many. Most of us have faced those feelings, and I’m know I’m not alone when I say that thinking of a return to whatever our new normal will be is both exhilarating and scary.
Being able to be home to work in my music room with Marley at my feet, getting to spend more quality time with Dan in the peace of our home…losing that and the safety and security I have felt at home will be a huge adjustment for this very introverted gal. However, I will gain something, too; my musician and professional self will come back stronger than before with even more appreciation for this career that I love so much. And, home will be there, too, just three minutes up the hill from the music building. Right now it all feels like swimming upstream or walking up the down staircase; hard work, but heading in the right direction.