Finding the Good in Difficult Days: Sisters and Associates Reflect on a Pandemic
A Suzuki cello instructor, S. Alice Ann O’Neill reflects on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her music ministry.
Teaching cello online during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely challenging. I feel like a brand-new teacher learning new ways of connecting with my students. Not having access to my music and all my teaching supplies in my Motherhouse studio has been difficult, and Internet connectivity issues have been an ongoing problem throughout these months. Our country’s Internet infrastructure has been pushed to the max with everyone working and learning online.
Although I am relatively tech-savvy, I am constantly learning more layers of new technology to achieve high quality video, and more importantly better sound. This requires constant adaption, and experimenting with new ways of approaching the problems. In addition to the technology, I have adjusted the physical set-up of my teaching space in our home several times trying to get maximum receptivity and good light so my cello students can see me teaching. My online teaching has itself required a tremendous amount of energy. In-person interaction tends to produce energy, however online interactions require less physical movement and more looking into a screen all day which has a draining effect. The most challenging lessons I teach are my 3-year-old students who are just learning to hold their bows and cellos. The usual method is to demonstrate and then to physically assist them in learning these important skills properly – trying to do this virtually is difficult for both of us. Pre-school age children have a difficult time understanding that people on screens are ACTUALLY present.
The rewarding aspect of teaching online during this quarantine time is that I can continue to serve the people God has placed under my care. It is a ministry of presence that means a lot to these families, bringing inspiration and joy to them, and allowing them to continue with the music they love and help them share music with others. Several of my cello students participate in an organization on Facebook that sends recordings to nursing homes for concerts. I was especially pleased when we managed to have our annual spring concert online with hundreds of people from all over the world able to join us on Zoom. My cello families and I are adapting to each challenge that arises together, living out the Seton family motto: “Hazard Yet Forward.”