Many things have changed since March 2020 and with life beginning to return to normal, music education is now able to continue as a hybrid of both online and in person. Whatever happens, we can be certain that music lessons will not disappear.

For the last year and a half, education has been patchy, with teachers attempting to adapt to a different way of teaching which means changing lesson plans, getting to grips with new technology and still helping struggling students as best they can. However, it is not all doom and gloom. The Director of the Sidcup Piano School (Geoffrey Molyneux) moved completely online during the lockdowns which prevented him from teaching in his studio, and although the students are now returning to lessons in person, this technological advance has opened up a range of opportunities including teaching even if students are isolating, and online concerts while it is not possible to hold live events.

At the start of the first lockdown, many educational institutions were struggling to adapt to online learning and many were dropping solely to written work or simply abandoning their students. But with so many options available to contact their pupils, many students felt that teachers could do much more. However, after a couple of practice calls with some of his students and their parents, Mr Molyneux transferred almost all of his students online and, through hard work and pure determination, didn’t miss a single lesson in a time where education was often unpredictable.

The Blackheath Music Festival is always held on the early bank holiday in May, and as Covid cases decreased and things began to open up, many were hopeful that this could go ahead as normal, allowing us to come together and enjoy hearing others play. However, this was not to be, but the organisers were reluctant to merely give up on the annual festival. Instead, the performers were invited to record their performances at home and send them in for virtual feedback, meaning that people could still have something to work towards.

As it became clear that Covid was not going to disappear, Performance Grades were introduced for music. As the traditional practice grades were disrupted during the lockdown and many had to be delayed numerous times, ABRSM introduced a purely online version, where applicants play four pieces chosen from a syllabus of thirty pieces which are changed every two years. This meant that students could achieve their grades even through further lockdowns, although the move has come under criticism from some teachers as they fear students will no longer practice the scales or aural skills which were necessary for the traditional exams, which could impact on their progress in music.

For many musicians, concerts provide an opportunity to perform their own pieces and enjoy the playing of others, as well as providing a reason to perfect their pieces. However, as lockdowns and restrictions have made these difficult to plan, online concerts have become a necessary fixture that enable people to still come together to listen to music. With people of all ages and abilities joining, these evenings of music provide vital encouragement to those who need it as well as being an opportunity to find new pieces we wish to play.

Between Christmas and the New Year, Mr Molyneux had planned to hold a concert in person, but as the Omicron variant began to appear and cases began to rise, it became clear that this was not going to be possible. As most of the students were familiar with online lessons from the earlier lockdowns, the concert was split into two evenings of online Christmas music which had a range of pieces from simple Christmas carols including Away in a Manger and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer to more advanced pieces from composers such as Beethoven, Prokoviev and Grieg. With the youngest performer aged just 5, the online concerts also provide a way for younger children to get used to performing without the pressure of everybody watching.

As vaccinations roll out across the country and restrictions decrease, everyone is looking forward to a date when we can finally meet in person and perform together again, but we know that if things do not go to plan then we can still revert to online lessons and virtual concerts, allowing people to progress and perform without interruptions.