Can’t Find the Right Notes: Playing Piano in a Pandemic

by Genevieve Schweitzer
Also Featured on KQED

Can’t Find the Right Notes: Playing Piano in a Pandemic

by Genevieve Schweitzer
Also Featured on KQED
07.21.21
Photo courtesy of Genevieve Schweitzer
07.21.21

At six years old, I sat in front of a piano for the first time. With my Crocs-clad feet dangling several inches off the floor, I allowed my teacher, Ms. Jones, to gently guide my fingers through simple three-note melodies. Little did I know that this was the beginning of my 13-year-long journey with the instrument. 

Over the years, I grew to love everything about the piano: the gentle ridges between the keys beneath my fingers, the smell of old sheet music, the sound of notes blurring together richly with a press of the damper pedal. 

So when quarantine hit and I could no longer attend my weekly lessons in person, I didn’t think it would affect my piano playing. After all, my instrument wasn’t going anywhere. I would be able to keep practicing, and I made plans with Ms. Jones to have lessons over FaceTime every Wednesday.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that these virtual lessons don’t really work for me. Internet issues always rudely interrupt my etudes and sonatas, leaving Ms. Jones incapable of giving me feedback. 

It began to dawn on me that the instrument itself wasn’t why I loved piano. It was the connections that it introduced me to. I miss playing duets with Ms. Jones, and chatting with her about classical music history as I pull out my sheet music.

My weekly lessons used to be a little escape from the world. Whether I was dealing with middle school drama or high school stress, I knew I could find respite in Ms. Jones’s sunny living room, where I could focus solely on music. 

While I feel lucky to be able to continue to play piano through the pandemic, I also am sad when I realize that after 13 years of lessons, my last one was spent entirely online. This fall I will be going off to college, and won’t have time to take another lesson with Ms. Jones again. 

If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that music is important because it draws us together. And that is hard to recreate over a screen.

A version of this story also aired on KCBS on April 11, 2021.