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Working in Isolation: “If Anyone Can Get Through This, Musicians Can.”

Andi Hopgood, musician, vocalist, tutor and Vice Chair of the MU Executive Committee, tells us about what happened when she had to "make the difficult decision to isolate early on the 16 March".

By Andrea Hopgood Published: 03 April 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:30 PM

I started by going into panic mode as at this point schools, colleges and universities were still open. I had to find a way to carry on. I was proactive, giving myself a couple of days to learn. There was lots of support online from many teachers who have been teaching online for years.  

I also joined a seminar a singing colleague ran for people starting out on Zoom. There were 100 singing teachers on Zoom at once and this really helped me to realise, I’m not alone here, we are all adjusting.  

Home set ups don’t have to be high tech to work  

I was teaching online two days later, very aware I needed to maintain some income. I don’t have a studio or any kind of set up at home. So I had to be imaginative with what I had, thank goodness for gaffa tape.  

I have my usual gigging mic and amp to give me more volume (to start off with I kept shouting at the laptop and getting a husky voice), my laptop on some boxes to get a decent angle on top of the keyboard, have gaffa taped my phone in various places for videos like Facebook Live....  

It’s all super low tech, but it works.  

We’re all learning as we go  

The vast majority of my students were keen to carry on, especially as their day to day changed. For some it’s kept some routine, and singing really does make you feel good!  

My two choirs were also happy to try it out online and it’s been successful. These are diverse community choir groups and I was concerned that those not so tech savvy would struggle, but everyone has helped out. Doing test sessions and helping people get the app etc. 

The biggest issue for the choirs is you can’t hear each other as you have to mute due to the time lag. But, seeing each other joining in does help with that community feel, and we have had some fun! 

I’ve also been attending as a participant in my usual choir rehearsal with The London Vocal Project, we have all been sharing ideas and ways of working. I’ve also been attending various singing from home groups to pick up more ideas.  

After changing some sound settings it’s much better and although not ideal, the quality is good enough for me to manage.  

Looking ahead to the next few weeks of self-isolation 

I’m now in week three of isolation and my new online life. I feel like a pro as now people are asking me for help! I’m trying to think of innovative ways to do things online and keep some kind of musical presence while I can’t be out there performing.  

Also being stuck at home I’ve felt pretty useless as I can’t help anyone. But I can sing... so I started the #Saturdaysingalong for anyone to join in our zoom pub room!  

It’s been fun and I have friends supporting me so I can get it on different platforms and run the session. Seeing everyone having a laugh on the screen has really helped to keep me positive.  

Keeping connected outside of work  

Zoom has also become my social life too. I live alone and without chatting to friends online I would be crawling the walls!  

For the sake of my mental health I’m trying to stay in touch with friends a lot, join in quizzes and socials online. It’s really kept me going. I did my first online open mic last night as a try out for doing an online gig.  

Its changing now as more people settle into this strange new way of life. I have watched more of my music colleagues playing than ever before. I’ve been to poetry readings, gigs, storytelling, open mics and DJ sets. Seeing more than I would have done before. We are still managing to stay creative. People are doing concerts everyday online. It’s inspiring.  

Musicians will get through this together 

If anyone can get through this, musicians can. We are super adaptable, creative and robust. Support each other. We just have to change to this online new world and keep up the value of our expertise and what we can offer.  

Setting up your online teaching practice

For more advice on setting up your online teaching practice, see our Teaching Music Online page.

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Photograph of Andi Hopgood sat at the front of a lecture hall, talking into a microphone. Behind her, a large screen displays the MU logo.

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