Stay-at-home Diaries | Ruby Wang, Piano Faculty

On Thursday, March, 19, Los Angeles residents were asked to stay in their residences and limit all activities outside of their homes beyond what is necessary for essential tasks. Days later, PCM adapted its lessons and programs and launched a “distance learning” spring quarter.

For this series, we’re checking in with students, instructors, and staff members to see how they’re managing and how distance learning (and teaching) is working for them.

Woman holding baby near piano

PCM: Where are you right now and who are you with?
RW: I’m home in Temple City with my mother, my husband, my newborn baby, three dogs, and one cat!

PCM: How are you feeling and how have you adjusted to life at home?
RW: I am in good spirits and feeling healthy! Adjusting to life at home has actually been easy and natural, as I was already on maternity leave since I delivered my baby on March 3rd, just before the pandemic outbreak and stay-at-home orders. As a result, I was able to transition into safer-at-home mode quite smoothly when my leave was over in April. The silver lining to our “new normal” of life at home is that I gained extra precious bonding time with my baby boy while still being able to work from home! The quarantine has been a huge blessing in disguise for me and my family and I feel incredibly lucky and blessed given the difficult present circumstances.

PCM: What does a typical day look like for you right now?
RW: Adjusting to a newborn baby’s feeding and sleeping schedules has been a challenge! It is hard to wake up early and get things done if the baby has been fussy all night! Therefore, every day is different but in general, my days now start a bit later than before.

In addition to PCM students, I serve on the Instrumental Music faculty at California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley (CSArts-SGV) and also have my own studio of private students. At CSArts-SGV, I teach Music Theory II, Piano Ensemble, and a Guided Practice class. Depending on the day, in the mornings before 1pm, I am usually in between tending to my newborn, teaching a couple of private lessons virtually, preparing lesson plans for my classes, and, IF, I’m lucky, getting an hour or two of practicing in! Then from around 2-4pm, I am teaching the above-mentioned CSArts-SGV conservatory classes via Zoom on alternating days. On the days when I’m not teaching CSArts classes in the mid-afternoons, I instead am teaching private or PCM students virtually until 8 or 9pm. Later in the evening, if I am not already exhausted, and if I didn’t get any practice in during the daytime, I try to put in an hour or two of practicing if possible. Music soothes my baby so it works out perfectly!

Woman with baby playing piano

PCM: In what ways (large and small) has the current situation impacted your studio/music educating experience?
RW: Having become a first-time mother recently, trying to juggle between my teaching and my newborn has been difficult and life-changing experience. The current social circumstance has actually positively impacted my music-teaching experience tremendously because being able to stay at home and conduct remote lessons and classes allowed me to get back to work sooner and easier than I originally anticipated! The timing could not have been better as it provides me with more convenience and flexibility with time and scheduling so that I am able to schedule necessary breaks in between virtual sessions to take care of my baby. I had obviously not expected this at all so I feel deeply grateful that the current situation has worked in my favor.

Remote teaching has made me realize how much in-person experience we used to take for granted, in the realms of teaching as well as personal relationships. With distance learning, the lack of face-to-face, hands-on approach, has naturally resulted in less material being covered in each meeting. I have had to adjust accordingly from lesson to lesson how much material I can deliver/a student can absorb via one remote session. Oftentimes, I might only be able to cover half the material I was able to before due to the time it takes to verbalize everything virtually. Luckily, as a result, with everyone staying at home and more flexibility with schedules, I can split some of my students’ lessons into two sessions throughout the week so that I can check in on their progress before a whole week goes by. The students who do these bi-weekly sessions benefit greatly, but in general students are practicing more and progressing faster – a noticeably positive impact from our current stay-at-home situation!

The possibility of incorporating remote learning from private one-on-one lessons, to classroom teaching, to conference meetings has been eye-opening. This global crisis has forced everyone to learn how to utilize and integrate technology even more profoundly and differently in our work. I can foresee myself using virtual lessons as an alternative in the future for makeup lessons or when students are unable to attend lessons in person, which will be a much better solution than simply skipping or canceling so as to maintain consistency and continuity.

Girl playing piano

PCM: What are you most looking forward to when everyone returns to campus? What, if anything, will you miss?
RW: I think in addition to the heightened awareness of personal hygiene and public sanitization that I am happy to see, I am very much looking forward to everyone valuing in-person interaction more than before and feeling the importance of being “present” with the person(s) we get to interact with from day-to-day on a much deeper level. I am most excited to see and connect with all of my students and colleagues again. Distance learning has undoubtedly tested but simultaneously improved, our ability to verbalize musical details with more patience and precision. It will be especially nice to be able to play with students again in real-time without time lag and sound glitches, hear live music in-person, and hopefully return to the traditional way of music-making/teaching/learning via face-to-face demonstration and interaction. I will, however, very much miss the convenience of working from home and not needing to commute as well as the flexibility of my current schedule!