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Should I start music lessons during Covid?

pema chodron quote.

‘This very moment is the perfect teacher, and it’s always with us’ is really a most instruction. Just seeing what’s going on-that’s the teaching right there. We can be with what’s happening and not disassociate. Awake-ness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary lives.”

Pema Chodron

I have had several conversations with people regarding taking music lessons during Covid. People wonder about the quality of instruction online vs in person. “Is it as good? Is it harder? Does it work? Maybe I should wait.” They also share frustrations about screen fatigue and “doing one more thing online.” The more I listen and the longer the conversation, underneath a lot of this is a fear, and a fatigue. This is tied to a frustration at the disturbance of life and routine. A desire to return to “normal” as fast as possible.

How do I want to respond to this?

I get it. This has been challenging on multiple levels. It has been a substantial change and disruption to how we have been living our lives. It has been for me as well. This has also been a time for me to re-evaluate, to adjust, to engage in redesigning what I’m doing with my day and time and to lean into what’s here, right now, and ask myself, “What do I want to do? How do I want to respond to this?”

These questions are scary, yes, and they are incredibly exciting and liberating. The answers, or the feelings of stress and fear, excitement, etc., are informative. At the beginning of all of this, these were (and still are) the questions I ask myself. I don’t feel like a victim. I feel less stress and anxiety. Why? Because I am taking responsibility for my day, my mood, my time, my situation and taking action. I feel less reactive and more focused and centered.

What would I be waiting for?

I have been a professional musician since I was 19. Playing gigs, participating in recording sessions, rehearsals, co writing, touring, teaching songwriting and guitar…all in person. This is how I have lived my day to day life and planned out my choices and goals. Needless to say, all of these activities and goals have been altered and changed. Some of them have ceased altogether. I’ve adapted my work routine, practice time, my teaching schedule and business, my socialization and communication, my workout routines, my schedule, my hobbies, my goals and my headspace.

Now, I spend a lot of time staring at a screen. But I get energized working with students, seeing their growth and connecting with people in music and creativity. I make a choice to engage with it in that way. I have to manage everything differently now, including my own work out routines and personal life. I have had to let some things go and that has created the space and energy for new things.

I don’t want to stop and wait. What would I be waiting for?

It was what was, and is, here

One of my goals for years was to one day own my own physical space to house my teaching studio. After years of incredibly hard work and a lot of sacrifice, we purchased a small commercial property. It was a lot of work. We fixed it up, did some big and costly improvements. After 18 months, I made the decision to suspend all in person lessons due to Covid. Within 24 hours, all lessons had been moved to online instruction. Soon after, Nashville businesses were mandated to close for the unforeseeable future. We have also been holding workshops and multi week-long classes online.

There is a level of absurdity and comedy in all of this process regarding the studio and purchasing a property. I have been teaching online lessons for several years. We have students all over the US and internationally as well. But the bulk of our lessons have been in the studio, in person. Pivoting to all online instruction was the right thing to do. And it created an opportunity for us to grow, connect and reach an even broader and bigger landscape. It was what was, and is, here. We made a decision and leaned into it. I don’t regret purchasing the property, and I don’t regret closing it during this time.

“When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.”

Pema Chodron

So, what do you want to do? How do you want to respond to what is here, right now?

Have you been putting off music lessons?

Have you been putting off lessons? Have you been wanting to pick back up? Learning an instrument online is actually a great way to learn. It is very effective and happens in real time. Music, pdfs, mp3s, etc can all be emailed and worked on immediately. When I was growing up in South Dakota, pre internet, I would have given anything, anything, to study with a professional guitarist or songwriter. In real time. Weekly.

Is the screen time eating into your time on Netflix and social media? Have you stopped exercising because the gym closed? Are you disassociating and causing your own stresses and frustrations? Are you wanting to have some fun, have a new hobby? Need something new in your routine? For a while, every day felt like Tuesday to me. Do you want to move forward in your creativity and musicianship? What’s here is this moment. What are you going to do with it?

With some of my newly found free time, I have been studying Modern Poetry online. Yale has a series of lectures by Professor Langdon Hammer. Even with all the time I spend on a computer, learning never gets old. It’s thrilling. For my own guitar time and exploration, I have been working with some online resources and practicing and learning. My wife and I have been doing yoga every day. We have been hiking and camping more. Historically, I have hated to run. But my gym closed. It’s open now, but I have been running several times a week and listening to music…for fun. Not for a gig or a rehearsal, for pleasure. I don’t mind running now. It feels great to be outside.

What do you want to do?

All the best, Shane