What happened to Harmony Music School when 2020 disappeared?

What it’s been like for Team Harmony in the last 12 months

Can you believe that a year has past since we started our first ever online only teaching days at Harmony? March 17th will be a date that we will all remember, 12 months on it felt like the right time for us all to look back on the last year and what has changed for everyone.

Here you can find out what Team Harmony have been up to and how we have all been feeling throughout the pandemic, the ups and the downs and everything in between. The shared experience will be one that I am sure we will all be talking about in years to come and we will all have things that stand out to us. Although we are not yet out of the lockdown (less than 1 month to go) we are all looking forward with optimism and hope that this time around we can all get back to normal and provide lessons that suit everyone. (We have even started to wonder what we will do with the big plastic screens when it’s all over!)

We can’t wait until we see you all again but in the mean time you can find out a little bit more about everyone at Harmony…..are you sitting comfortably, then we shall begin…..

We asked all the hard hitting questions …..like

If I have a gap in my schedule, I can do the hoovering… or the dishes… or the ironing

I’ve since become an expert baker, painter and can make almost anything out of play dough.

He’s going to have the biggest smile on his face


Where to start!?!
In early March 2020, we were half way through planning how we were going to react to the Covid situation. I started teaching my normal students on Monday 16th March thinking that we still had a few weeks to get everything in place. When I came out of my first lesson at 4.30, Abby greeted me with, “Boris has been on – we are closing from tomorrow and moving all of the lessons online!” In the next 12 hours, we put in place the infrastructure to continue delivering our lessons online, initially from the school and then from our teachers’ homes. Like the rest of the world, we were about to see just how far technology had come.
The next 3 months was full of uncertainty. The Government hadn’t fully introduced the funding which was to follow, and Abby and myself took part time jobs at Sainsbury’s, meaning that our lost income could be covered in some part. With all of the theatres closed, my touring work went from 150 shows per year to zero overnight. But, as the Summer continued, the Government provided more and more support to businesses and, as the year progressed, our fears were replaced by a renewed optimism to rebuild and take the school forward. We worked with both of our landlords to secure our future and the opportunity came to move our Ecclesfield branch to its new home in the old Griffin pub – directly opposite our former home at the White Bear. We have been working round the clock this year to get our new place ready for everyone and can’t wait for you to see it.
The past 12 months has undoubtedly been the toughest we have had since we opened the school 14 years ago. We have endured thanks to the mammoth efforts of our teachers and staff who have adapted and flourished in the toughest of conditions – thank you all for your amazing efforts and dedication. There were times when we felt like everything was against us but with everyone behind us it gave us the drive to keep going when we were running on empty. We have also had great support from our landlords, our Primary and Secondary School clients, and, not to forget, the help and support from the Government and our local Council. Last, but not least, I would like to thank our wonderful students who have supported us while our lessons have been online. We are now very much focused on moving forward in our beautiful new home and continuing to make Harmony Music School stronger and better.

Two week’s before the announcement I was in New York on a girls break (not long after we left it became the epicentre of the pandemic!) A few days before the world went into melt down we were putting together a 6 stage plan for what we would do if different scenarios happened, we had already introduced sanitising everything between students at that point but we felt we were ready for whatever came…….What a massive understatement that was!
On Monday the 16th, I was working on reception and was listening to the announcement live, within 30 minutes I started to tick off the different scenarios we had planned for, stage one gone, stage two gone….and it went on until ……stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives…. stage 6 has just been thrown in the bin. Think, think, what can we do…….Ok I know how Google hangouts works we can provide online lessons…..Aubrey and I chatted and decided to make the 16th our last day for face to face lesson. Although businesses were given until the 23rd to get prepared, as of March 17th we were online, for everyone’s safety it felt like the right thing to do, but we were not prepared for how hard it was going to be. We started initially with the teachers working in the school but then within a few days we were all home based. Those first two weeks were complete hell, we were so busy I could barely function (but on the upside I lost 5 pounds in 10 days!). A few years back I remember talking to a friend, wondering what happened during world wars with mortgages and stuff like that…. Well we found out……..massive amounts of Government funding to keep the world working! Although we got some support for the school, my marketing clients and Aubrey’s gigs dried up, so off we went to join the key worker massive and we become online order pickers at Sainsbury’s. I’ll always be grateful for the income but I was over the moon when we were able to reopen the school and hand in our notice.
Over the next 6 months the challenges just kept coming, another two lockdowns, working alone in an empty building, not being able to spend time with the people I love and then to top it all, there have been times where I ran out of Prosecco! As we head into the reopening I am hopeful we are able to move past this year and use what we have learned to be the best we can be. The support we have received from our teachers, our Carolines, our students, our friends and family has been truly humbling and it means that we are able to plan for the school’s future. I can’t say that’ll I miss 2020 though…..I have never worked as hard, for such long hours, for such little income but you know what they say – We’re made of strong stuff up north!

As I already had an interest in the potential of online learning before the pandemic and keen interest in technology, I actually viewed the prospect of lockdown as a challenge to look forward to and an opportunity to test some of the ideas that I had on how online lessons could work.
I was pretty confident that we could make the online lessons work just as well as in-person lessons and made it a priority to try and find different solutions that would make the lessons go ahead smoothly. It’s served as a great excuse to buy some of the gadgets I’d been looking at for a while.
I’ve also really enjoyed teaching in the new building, although it’s been short lived so far, I’m looking forward to being able to return hopefully in the not-too-distant future and bring some of the things I’ve learnt during the online lessons back to the regular ones.
The last year has been a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of teaching the drums. Getting used to zoom and having different sorts of problems with sound has been difficult. I think it’s been even harder on some students as their neighbours might not appreciate the practice!
It has been better in terms of having the exercises and songs shared on the same screen so we can talk through it and sort the extra bits out. It’s made me realise how much I need to get a new laptop too. I’m just looking forward to seeing all the students again and being able to teach and learn together. I’m looking forward to seeing again!
The last year has been a tough one, and as we (hopefully) get closer to the point where things can open up again, it’s good to reflect on the challenges and opportunities it has brought.
I’ve really missed my face to face lessons, and the students who haven’t been able to do online lessons. For those that have, it’s been great to see everyone making the best of it and keeping up with their progress. For anyone who couldn’t do lessons online – just keep playing and putting in the time when you can. You’ll get there.
I had to take on another job, which has left me with much less time to play music. That’s been very frustrating, but it’s made me more determined to get my practice time in, even if that means getting up at 5.30 to do an hour before work. I’m probably practicing more consistently now than before, and it’s made me really focus and not take it for granted. I’m very lucky to have a practice space at home where I can play without disturbing anyone.
Lastly I can’t wait to enjoy music together with other people – to play a gig, have a jam with friends, or go to see a band. When that happens I’m going to have the biggest smile on my face!
The last year has been an emotional rollercoaster full of highs and lows. I was a little hesitant at the beginning of the pandemic about moving to online music lessons and really didn’t think they would work. As the weeks went on, I quickly turned my music room into a home teaching space ready for online lessons, learnt new tech, upgraded equipment and I am pleased to say I am now a master at Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime and Viber and I’m really enjoying online teaching!
Being able to continue teaching music has really made a difference to my lockdown experience, it’s been fantastic and my students have really embraced online lessons. I’ve managed to do all this while trying to entertain a 2-year-old. Being a stay-at-home mum has meant I’ve since become an expert baker, painter and can make almost anything out of playdough.
Going back to teach in schools for Harmony in Lockdown 3 has been enjoyable, yet certainly different! Quickly learning how to use Google Meet and adapting to an online classroom environment has proved rewarding and it’s been great to be back in school, providing children with music lessons as part of their curriculum.
Lockdown #1……. Amazing, let’s use this time to enjoy being together as a family, get into a proper fitness routine and be grateful that we’ve got a nice garden to sit in.
Lockdown #2 ……..I still haven’t lost my first lockdown stone. Ah well, it’s only a month and then it will be nearly Christmas. Let’s put the tree up early and get into the festive spirit.
Lockdown #3 What fresh hell is this…….. Homeschool, homeschool, a bottle of wine, then more homeschool.

Joking aside, lockdown for me has been mainly all good things.
Harmony from home was a challenge at first but I started to look forward to the lessons because it gave me chance to catch up with our students and parents and it became a mini support network for us all at a time when we couldn’t see anyone else.
A weekend at the seaside, a walk with friends and even going to work meant so much more than it ever had before.

The majority of lockdowns has been just me and Noah at home as Richard was still allowed to work.

I’ve become a teacher, a hairdresser (Noah’s new nickname is Lloyd – just Google ‘Dumb and Dumber’ and you’ll understand ?) and a referee.

We are ready now for life to go back to normal and I can’t wait to have our students back with us in our new Harmony home, it’s not the same without you.
For me and I’m sure others lockdown started off as a type of novelty, more time to walk the dogs, to do that decorating and gardening you never got round to, and to jump straight into a bubble bath after logging off online teaching for the day.
But as we all currently sit in the third national lockdown to date, when the weather’s cold and sitting inside is no longer a luxury; I’m officially looking forward to living and not just existing in four walls. I can’t wait to hug my mum and dad and thank them for every facetime rant they sat through during this year. To be able to help support my now fiancé (whom I got engaged to during a pandemic.) as he’s kept the roof over our heads through this difficult time financially. To finally be sitting mask free in a beer garden with my friends and laugh together about zoom quizzes and toilet paper shortages.
I am grateful to the bottom of my heart to all the students that supported myself and Harmony and let us continue doing what we love to do.
I truly cannot wait to come together and be able to sing without a visor on and give everyone a giant hug!!
At first, I was daunted by the idea of teaching students to play the piano using online lessons and I was dubious about how it could work successfully.
After the first few lessons of finding our feet with stable internet connections and the best audio sound along with other initial teething problems, I realised that the online lessons could work well. My preference is teaching face to face for a number of reasons but online lessons can also work very well.
It’s definitely been a different kind of year! Challenging in many ways but also rewarding. The uncertainty of not knowing whether we can teach face to face or only online the night before a teaching day can definitely be stressful! But the support of everyone at the school: staff, parents and students has been invaluable.
It’s also been a good experience for trying new approaches to teaching and learning how to problem solve by adapting and using new technology. This year has helped me to grow, learn and improve as a person and a teacher
This last year has certainly had ups and downs. In the corny sense “I have learnt a lot about myself”. I’m not very technical, so getting used to zoom etc has been very tricky and my lessons aren’t the same so adapting has been a learning curve.
Cleaning like crazy and not being allowed students has also been a challenge.
However, with persistence and what I’ve found to be a strong character I’ve managed to get used to it, and use the technology to adapt.

The past year has been one that will be hard to forget in the decades to come. It is not how I expected my early twenties to look like, but that’s not to say it was all bad either!
Being both a University student and a teacher, I experienced both sides of the impact on education, which was arguably one of the most affected areas by the pandemic. This particular situation of mine though has allowed me to see the perspective of my students, and my university lecturers at the same time, possibly giving my insights that not everyone has had.
It was not easy for anyone, at times it’s been extremely frustrating, being sat in front of an iPad trying to fix the WIFI, or trying different camera angles to get the best view for a productive lesson; at times it’s been also great, being able to wake up 5 minutes before a lecture to be watched in my pj’s whilst eating breakfast.
Nevertheless, I think it’s been a year where we have all learnt a lot, and going into 2021, we find ourselves in a changed world that will undoubtedly benefit off everyone’s individual growth.
It’s hard to write about the last year in prose, so here’s some relatively light pros, cons and neither here nor theres..
Pro: Extra practice time. Pre-pandemic, I had enough time to work on what was essential, but not much else…plus, I have time to just play as well.
Con: opportunities to show of all that cool new stuff are all subject to cancellation. I lost two decent UK festival slots and some concerts in Tenerife last year so relatively heartbroken about that.
Pro: the Harmony syllabus works just as well online as in person due to how it is structured, so whilst the setting’s different, there’s no change to what we cover.
Con: not everyone’s able to continue lessons, so hope everyone who I’ve not seen over the last year is good as can be (and people who left before all this for that matter too)
And some stuff that’s neither here nor there;
Due to copyright, it’s been interesting using public domain material for reading practice.
I think everyone’s a bit more versed in ragtime, swing, latin and blues music than they were before Covid.
Also, since Harmony moved over Christmas and the lockdown began on what would’ve been my first day back, I’ve never actually been to Harmony Music School in Ecclesfield
Overall, I’d rate the pandemic 2/10. There are some good aspects, but they are vastly outweighed by the negatives
I can’t believe it’s been a year since the first lockdown!!
I remember Mon 16th of March like yesterday. Was teaching as normal knowing an announcement was going to be made. Finished my last lesson and came out to reception to be told that teaching was to be online until further notice. We all new it was coming but hearing those words felt like a blow to the stomach.
A test of my equipment at home determined that it was not possible to establish the links required so a mad dash across Sheffield to gather the necessary tech was made!!
It took a while to get used to online lessons both for myself and the students. Tech issues were encountered and whilst the majority of students enjoyed online others didn’t. Some stayed, some left, others waited till after the first lockdown, only to go back in again!!
For me personally and professionally it’s been a tough year but with the amazing vaccination rollout it’s only heading one way.

Where do we even start to talk about the previous year? Not only from a teachers perspective but just living in a time like this. I’m a firm believer in the fact that adversity brings people together, and that’s really what has happened here. We might all be physically apart but we’re all facing the same storm and have somewhat of an understanding about what our friends/peers/neighbours are going through.
Speaking of neighbours, mine have been wonderful while I’ve been working from home! The walls can never be thick enough having an upright piano in the dining room in a semi-detached house. Moving online was difficult at first, trying to teach people to sing when you can’t sing with them, or having their audio drop out, lag, freeze – all familiar terms now, was really a challenge. Trying to work out how to best enable my students to learn by adapting my own teaching whilst still being able to give them timely feedback but being unable to “jump in” to say something to them… a task! But its been really valuable to be put in this situation – I’ve learnt a lot about myself and my teaching, as well as how to use tech that I had never needed to use before. It will be interesting to see how this opens doors in the future.
Through the lockdown, I’ve had some students who are unable to access the online learning which has been really difficult – a sense of guilt almost, although there’s really nothing that we could do unfortunately. I do look forward to seeing these students as soon as we’re allowed to be back face to face! On the flip side, it’s been lovely to begin teaching new students online! Young people who may not be able to travel or access lessons face to face for any reason can now access them, and those who do intend to be face to face students, I look forward to meeting them properly.
Working from home has its perks. Whilst my income has been adversely affected in larger amounts than I would like, we’ve lost the expense of having to travel. It also means if I have a gap in my schedule, I can do the hoovering… or the dishes… or the ironing… and it also beats coming in to an empty building at the school. Before the pandemic, the environment was super social, having a chat with reception, other teachers, other students. There was a real sense of loss when none of that was there anymore.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing my students – both online and in person. I’m really excited about the work that’s been taking place and can’t wait to hear properly the progress they’ve made during this time.
One year, three national lockdowns and many challenges later, Harmony Music School has exceeded my expectations of any workplace/growing business. I couldn’t have asked for a more considerate and supporting place to work throughout a year of unprecedented change, uncertainty and high emotion.
Abby and Aubrey are unparalleled in their commitment to student and staff safety; which has seen many major changes from the way lessons are booked down to the physical aspects of the school itself. Which are often implemented in record time to keep up with the constant changes in government guidelines.
For myself, this has meant shift changes, no longer working in person at the Broomhill school and working alone, in the empty Ecclesfield school (spooky – in the dark). Whilst I miss seeing and chatting to staff, students and parents, I appreciate the great lengths Harmony Music School has gone to, to ensure everyone’s safety, whilst remaining a genuinely nice, fun place to be. I am grateful to all the staff, students and parents who have taken the time to check in and talk with me over the phone, no matter how quick, to make sure I’m okay. As for many others, this past year has been flooded with Zoom/Skype/Teams/Hangouts calls and with that, many new challenges to overcome. Whilst I appreciate I am not the best person to ask for tech support, I am happy for the opportunity to learn and, at least try, to help others. I honestly believe that working at Harmony throughout the pandemic has enabled me to improve my confidence, strength and adaptability.
With that being said, fingers crossed we are now through the worst. I’m genuinely looking forward to the day we can welcome you all back into the (new!) school, albeit 2 metres apart.