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Sound of music coming back

Features

Castlebar/Kiltimagh
Óisin McGovern

With all the attention focused on the reopening of primary and secondary schools, music schools are quietly going about making preparations for operating under Covid-19 guidelines.
Mayo School of Music, who operate in Castlebar and Kiltimagh, are one such school getting ready to re-commence with face-to-face lessons.
It has somewhat slipped under the radar that music schools have also been shut since Leo Varadkar announced the closure of the schools on March 12.
Director of the Mayo School of Music Shaun Heneghan told The Mayo News about how he and the rest of the tutors are preparing to recommence lessons under the new regulations.
“Even though most of our lessons are one-to-one, there’s still hundreds of students coming in every week. When you look at it that way, we have to take the same precautions as schools would,” he says.
While teachers will be able to adequately physically distance in their teaching rooms in Castlebar and Kiltimagh, students will have to wash their hands before coming into class. Waiting rooms will also have limited numbers at any given time while chairs and keyboards will be disinfected between each lesson. Group lessons for younger children will also be limited to three students per class for the time being.
Shaun says: “We’re lucky with the layout of the building that with the hallways they can just wait outside the teacher’s room. We’re lucky in Kiltimagh because there’s actually three different entrances to the building.”
He added: “The teachers will wear face shields but some of our teachers teach wind instruments so we’ll have to put up Perspex screens between the teacher and the student. That’s the only way we can get around it. We’ll be using them for the singing [lessons] as well as you’re going to be projecting your voice even further.”

Online during lockdown
While their doors have been closed for over five months, Mayo School of Music continued to provide all of their lessons online.
Shortly after their closure on March 12, tutors got to work installing cameras, microphones and lighting in their own homes to provide their lessons via Zoom and Skype.
While there were a few issues with hearing students clearly and pointing to specific areas on musical scores, the leap into online tuition was largely a successful one.
“We knew if we were going to do it we’d have to do it properly,” says Shaun, who also runs The Drum Experience tuition service.  
“We had to do a lot of testing first before going into the lessons with Zoom and Skype. It all synced up with the online system, so I was able to schedule all the lessons from [the office].
“[The tutors’] schedule for the day will appear on the page and they just click their link. The students are able to do the same, they just click their link. It worked really well in fairness.”
He continued: “We couldn’t believe how many people did the online lessons. There was one or two of our teachers that couldn’t do the online lessons because their internet wasn’t good enough.”
While the majority of their students will be starting back with face-to-face lessons on September 7, Shaun says there are a number of students who will be sticking with the online lessons.
“We haven’t had many saying they’re staying online because they’re afraid to come back into the school, but there’s been about 20 students who want to stay with the online lessons because it’s more convenient for them.”
Shaun says that many students have actually practiced more diligently while taking online lessons during lockdown.
“The practice definitely went up with certain students. With the online lessons it forced our students to start using the online student portal properly.
“There’s a practice log where the students fill in how long they’ve practiced for. Since they’ve started using that there’s been a lot more practice being done.”