MUSIC LESSONS & CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all students have been transferred to video lessons, and new students will only be acceptted via video. Below are emails sent to students.

Saturday, March 21, 2020.

After spending the last several days preparing for my future physical needs, shoring up my finances, amplifying the call to social distance and take this pandemic seriously, taking care of my music students by transitioning them to video or saying goodbye for now, starting to grieve and integrate our new reality, and getting ready for an imminent lock-down, all while practicing as much self-care as possible, I'm reaching out to share three things that I feel could be of great benefit to you and your loved ones... Regarding immediate physical needs and current/future emotional and spiritual well-being. But in preface, let me state what I understand the long-term outlook to be.

Hopefully, everyone is catching on that this highly contagious virus, from which we have no immunity, is mostly spread through close contact via respiratory droplets via coughing, sneezing or other ejection from the mouth (ever notice little drops of spit can come out when we sing, talk or huff?) that find their way out of one person's body and into the mouth, eyes or nose of another. It is thought that only one in five-to-ten infected people will show symptoms, and asymptomatic folks still spread the virus. Hence the social distancing and ever increasing lock-downs. The mortality rate will likely to be found to be around 1% overall but disproportionately affects those with low immune resiliency, like the elderly and those with health issues. Those populations may have mortality rates as high as 20%. The goal is to slow the spread, to help protect vulnerable populations and keep from overwhelming medical facilities and staff, which will cause unnecessary suffering and death, both for those infected and those needing other medical care i.e. FLATTEN THE CURVE. The spread of this virus is likely to go on for many months as it ebbs and flows and flares up again and again in different geographic areas, getting less and less severe as more people gain immunity. Social distancing and periodic lockdowns lasting for weeks or months are likely to be the norm for some time, so we can FLATTEN THE ROLLERCOASTER.

Besides the enormous physical suffering and death that some people will face, the collateral damage of this pandemic will be far and wide. Economic activity will periodically slow to approximate war-time conditions, much worse than any recession including the Great Depression. And the psychological and emotional impact of lock downs, financial stress, and thwarting of plans, dreams and free agency will be deep and long lasting. As dire as that may all sound, I believe there are many things we can do to mitigate suffering, build our connection and compassion, and help and support one another during this extraordinary time. I think we are starting to do our part to triage the most immediate need: FLATTEN THE ROLLERCOASTER. And I want to plant (or amplify) the seed of what I see as one of the next big triage tasks at hand:

CROWD SOURCE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Several people I know have already lost their jobs this week, or will soon, or have seen their incomes significantly reduced. In a matter of weeks or days, they will be out of money to pay for food or rent or other basics necessities. Though it looks like our federal government is set to offer financial assistance in the form of cash in the short term, (in simplistic terms) it can't print (or borrow from itself) a trillion dollars every couple weeks without devaluing the dollar and causing inflation, negating the impact of the assistance and causing more financial harm. Hopefully, federal, state and local governments and other entities will create patchworks of other measures and assistance to help mitigate the financial impact and the collateral damage therein. Regardless, I believe there is something we can start setting up for ourselves now.

Crowd funding is ubiquitous in this day and age for startups, products and other ventures. We can crowd source financial assistance for those in need and distribute the cost among ourselves. Via money I've saved, beyond taking care of my own financial basics, I am in a financial position to make small donations to a number of people for a significant period of time, and I assume there are many like me. For every single one of you on this list, please consider me on your team, in general and for crowd funding. I will be a regular part of your crowd sourced assistance, and I will help any other way I can. I hope in the short term this idea will help reduce some stress for those in precarious financial circumstances in an already incredibly stressful time, and over the course of the pandemic, I hope this is one way we can support one another to get through this with the least amount of suffering possible.

I imagine there are many apps and other ways of crowdsourcing, from Kickstarter-like sites, DIY or directly on Facebook. Hopefully, these companies will do their part and drop all fees. And I'd imagine the best options will emerge. I imagine those in need will do their part to reduce their financial commitments where possible, use whatever financial safety net they have and be transparent about their situation. From talking to one friend today, I imagine asking for assistance will feel extremely vulnerable for some, while also instilling a lot of connection and gratitude for all involved in the process. I also imagine that some folks will use this as a scam. I imagine adding additional specifics is not needed, as best practices are certain to emerge. Hopefully this idea will be beneficial, will catch on widely and be a part of how we navigate this storm together with compassion, care and love. If you feel so compelled, please spread this idea out in the world in whatever way works for you.

GROUP SOURCED MINDFULNESS & CONNECTION

I've been a mindfulness practitioner for 26 years and have spent nearly a cumulative year in silent meditation retreat. For me, mindfulness practice has been my cornerstone of working through difficulty, including resolving my chronic depression and helping me grieve the sudden loss of my best friend and likely future spouse 10 years ago. It's helped me come into more ease and connection with myself and my circumstances, including this current pandemic. Additionally, over the last 10 years, I've been studying, facilitating and consulting in group dynamics, conflict resolution and inter-personal communication, with the basic intent of helping groups, teams and businesses work through conflict, get unstuck and stay relationally healthy.

I stopped practicing with my former traditional teacher-student-modeled mindfulness group a few years ago, and I became increasingly interested in combining mindfulness and interpersonal connection-related practices sourced from and led by a group that employees healthy group norms. Though I was planning on seeding this idea later this year, priorities have changed. I believe this group-led mindfulness model could be very beneficial to some folks as we co-create meetings that help us skillfully face and process the situation we are all in. If you are curious about this, I encourage you to read more at the website I just created. Here are the initial Zoom meeting times. You are invited to attend any or all.

  • Sunday, March 22 @ 4pm MST
  • Tuesday, March 24 @ 12pm MST
  • Friday, March 27 @ 6:30pm MST

Meetings are: Free and open to all. No experience necessary. Invite whomever you'd like. Like physical exercise, content is universal, non-religious and compatible with and not in contrast to nearly all belief systems and religious views.

Further details about about attending the meeting, what to expect and everything else you need is at: https://groupmindful.org/ And if you have any questions, you can also contact me directly.

ONE-TO-ONE SUPPORT

Firstly, and most importantly, if you'd like any one-to-one support, including someone to talk to, someone to listen or someone to connect with, drop me a line, and we'll make that happen. I'd be honored and humbled by your request.

Secondly, in this time of great upheaval and financial distress for many, I feel highly sensitive about the perception that my underlying motivation is to make a profit for myself. While I will need to make a full income in the future, I want to make you aware of one of my offerings that may be beneficial to you in this difficult time. The cost of this offering has long since been pay-what-you'd-like, or as I call it 'payment by intuitive offering', and I want to underline that especially in these times, we have the option of working together at no cost to you.

I work with folks to co-create experiences that help them get unstuck, make difficult transitions and move out of persistent patterns via one-to-one coaching. I call it Catalyst Coaching. Folks often tell me our work together has been significantly more effective than anything they've done in the coaching, therapy, workshop and personal growth realms. Historically for most, via working with deep underlying patterns, our work centers around transitioning from a stuck career/job/life situation into what is much more authentic and alive for them, but because we are now all in immense transition, which also tends to bring out our deep patterns, getting this type of one-to-one support may be timely and beneficial for you, especially if you are working with a lot of uncertainty or difficulty in your particular situation.

A couple notes about coaching: Though it often has therapeutic impacts, coaching is not therapy; there are several key differences which I can explain if you're interested. Usually only a handful of two-hour sessions are needed to complete our work together. We meet via Zoom. If you are curious or interested, let's set up some pre-coaching time to connect to see if we are a good match to work with one another, as sometimes this work may not work well for you at this time. You can find more info on my website: https://evolvingup.com/ (Please excuse how massively out of date it is; I've been prioritizing things one day at a time.)

COMING SOON

We are all digesting a lot. I've just added more for you to consider, and I will be sending more in the coming days and weeks about things I believe are of service to us all: other offerings in the personal evolution realms, expanding my music/creativity offerings online (including a group online singing, pay-what-you-can program), and probably a bit about my own process. So I will wind up here and say:

May we be free of any distress that arises in these difficult times. May we live with ease and happiness.

With Love, John

PS

If I haven't seen you in a few months and you reply to this email, I invite you to attach a photo, as I've done. You might not remember my face or vice versa, and for me personally, it really helps make a much stronger connection to be able to see you.

Monday, March 16, 2020.

Because of how fast things are developing, it is my sense that we will be in some sort of lock down by this time next week. As such, I am going to move to video lessons only starting next week. If you would like to convert to video this week, as a couple students already have, let me know. I will be using Zoom and/or Google Hangouts, and I will be adding 15 minutes to lessons as needed to work with technical issues and create a more spacious experience. I will send more instructions to those who sign up this week and to everyone by next week.

This week, I will still be teaching in person lessons with the important modifications below. Plus I am in process of creating a more spacious schedule this week for everyone so we have some time to chat and to increase social distancing between students coming and going.

Big picture it is my sense that this pandemic is likely to go on for months. Even though there are many things more important to talk about than lessons, I want to be as brief-ish and say:

I anticipate 2/3's of students will discontinue lessons after they complete their current set. If there is any unease about stopping or your impact on me, please don't worry. I believe I have prepared for something like this, as I'm fully aware that things like music lessons are usually the first to go in difficult times. More importantly, I've been thinking about ways we can help each other weather this storm together, as I know some of us will be in more resourced positions than others. More on that soon.

More immediately, for those discontinuing, I want to complete our lessons together with as much positive impact and helpful forward movement as possible. And for everyone, I want to make sure we connect fully about your music and with you personally, to be as supportive as I can in as these unprecedented and difficult times unfold.

Additionally, I will be rolling out other one-to-one and group online offerings, both in the singing/music/creativity realms, and the realms of personal evolution, deepening connection and working with difficulty. These will be offered either for free or pay-what-you-can. I will keep you updated.

May we live with as much ease as possible as we face this uncertainty.

With Regard,
John

Friday, March 13, 2020.

I apologize for not sending this email as I intended on Tuesday afternoon. In regard to lessons and the coronavirus pandemic, please read at least “THE SHORT OF IT”, and ideally this whole email.

- THE SHORT OF IT -

LESSONS WILL CONTINUE: At this time, based on current information, my tracking of this pandemic since mid-January, and my general sense of balancing our health with continuing to live our lives, I plan to continue teaching a normal schedule with the following important modifications to our lessons:

  1. CANCEL IF WE HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS OF SICKNESS: Please cancel your lesson if you have any symptoms of sickness, and I will do the same. Our lesson agreement (sent with intro lesson email: http://www.makegreatmusic.com/agreement.php) is already designed for you to not lose your lesson time even if you have to cancel last minute. I encourage you to read our agreement regarding cancellation if you haven’t already. (More about this point below)
  1. MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING: My studio is already set up by default with a distance of 6ish feet between us (except for teaching piano; I will reach out to those folks directly). I personally feel comfortable that we are at low risk of transmitting anything one-to-one in this environment. And of course, this is a decision you need to make for yourself. (More about this point below)
  1. COUGH/SNEEZE PROTOCOL: Even if we aren’t sick, we might unexpectedly cough or sneeze. This is what we can do (in order of expert recommendations; use what is most practical in the moment): Cough or sneeze: 1. Into Tissue & throw away 2. Into Elbow 3. Into Hand. 4. Away from other people. THEN. Wash or sanitize hands after. T.E.H.A.W. Tissue. Elbow. Hand. Away. Wash.
  1. HAND HYGIENE: We will forgo shaking hands. And I encourage you to sanitize your hands before coming into the studio. Unfortunately, I didn’t get back from vacation until Tuesday, and I wasn’t able to find hand sanitizer or wipes at stores. I will make this available to you if I procure some, and you are welcome to wash your hands here when you arrive. I’ve always regularly washed my hands multiple times a day while teaching and in general. (More about this point below)
  1. DISINFECT: I will disinfect shared surfaces in the studio regularly, which is pretty much only the keyboard, as I almost always open and close the door for students. (More about this point below)

VIDEO LESSONS: I’ve long since offered lessons via video. You are welcome to switch to this. They work pretty well for learning most things. (More about this point below)

AND LASTLY: If you have any questions, concerns or would just like to chat, don’t hesitate to call. I wish us all as much ease as possible with the difficulties: physical, financial, personal, emotional & spiritual; that arise during this time. May we all be in the best health possible.

And I hope you will read the rest of this email.

- THE FULL DETAILS -

I’d like to start this section by apologizing again for not sending this sooner. I value timely, direct, honest leadership, and I didn’t prioritize this well with my return from camping on Kauai on Tuesday morning. I’ve had a couple questions from students about this, and I waited until today to send it so I could give it the full attention it needs.

As a legal disclaimer, nothing herein should be construed as medical advice; it’s not. I recommend going to: https://cdc.gov/

BIG PICTURE PANDEMIC: Since learning about coronavirus in mid-January, it became pretty clear pretty to me that this would become a pandemic. As I currently understand it: Experts estimate 30-70% of the world’s population could become infected. And this pandemic phase may last 18 months or more, and coronavirus, like the flu, may circulate and mutate in the world’s population indefinitely. And the mortality rate will likely to be found to be around 1% (10 times higher than the average flu variant, but 90% less than SARS; exact mortality rate cannot be determined yet for a variety of factors) . Like the flu, COVID-19 disproportionately affects those with low immune resiliency, like the elderly and those with certain medical or health issues.  The good news seems to be that young children seem to be the most resilient, with no deaths reported at the time of this writing. Transmission is not yet fully understood but directly from the CDC website: “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” My intent is not to be hyperbolic or to scare you, but rather to state the current facts as I understand them from the large quantities of fact based articles/sources I’ve read over the last couple months. This statement of facts is to preface some points below, as well as to lay a foundation of how we move forward with this serious situation that is likely to be the status quo for awhile, while we go on living our lives, which may or may not include music lessons for you.

OUR JOB IS TO “FLATTEN THE CURVE”: Because of the nature of what will likely happen over the coming months, our primary job is to slow and mitigate transmission to one another. This will keep too many cases from happening at the same time and overwhelming our medical facilities, which in turn will save lives. There are several articles about this. Here is one: https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation Governments are already starting to act on this, including keeping groups of people from gathering in one place: School, large events, etc. have been cancelled or moved online. And I personally stopped social dancing a couple weeks ago to remove myself from close transmission possibilities with many people. Obviously, if we were going to take this to the extreme, and we all had the resources, we could try to stay self-isolated in our homes for months. So herein, lies the balance. For me, balancing my health, your health and the health of us all means, I am stopping some things, like dancing, and continuing others that seem to be low risk of transmission, like continuing to offer lessons with the important modifications above.

MORE ABOUT THE SHORT OF IT: Because of the current understanding of transmission, it seems that being vigilant about staying out of one another’s presence if we have ANY symptoms of sickness by cancelling our lessons AND maintaining our social distance of 6 feet during lessons should keep our risk low of transmitting the virus to one another if we do not know we have it. Obviously, if and when we do test positive, we should follow the expert recommendations, which currently seem to be self-isolation for 14 days. Additionally, and my personal pet peeve, public health guidelines often don’t seem to include the “why” about their recommendations, which I think are super important to help people build awareness and learn to follow them. As I understand it, our goal (the “why”) is to keep the virus from entering our bodies, which mostly means, through our mouths, eyes & noses (M.E.N.), because it can’t enter through our healthy skin. Which means… We keep social distance (6+ feet) to keep droplets from falling into our M.E.N. We stay home to if we are sick to keep from accidentally getting the virus into someone else’s M.E.N. And we wash/sanitize our hands before we put your fingers in our M.E.N. to keep any virus out that may be on our hands. And we sanitize high touch surfaces (phones, door knobs, facet handles, keyboards, etc.) to keep them from getting on our hands and then into our M.E.N.. I personally have long since been mindful of when my hands are clean or not and depending, whether or not I put them in my M.E.N. It might be a kind gross way to think about it (but on the upside easy to remember): Keep my unwashed hands out of my M.E.N. And keep your distance from my M.E.N.

STAYING HEALTHY & IMMUNE SYSTEM CARE: My other big pet peeve about this is I have read no single article that talks about staying healthy. I rarely get sick. And when I do, I rarely get very sick. For me, it’s all about letting my immune system do its job. I figure, for most things, it’s the best defense against illness if I can support it and get out if its way. Again, nothing herein is medical advice, but I do want to share what I do for myself that I think is important for me:

- SLEEP & REST: I feel like this is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR ME in general and especially if I feel I might be getting sick. Our immune systems don’t function as well if we are sleep deprived and as a country, we are chronically sleep deprived. I try to get plenty of sleep and catch up when I don’t. And if I feel like I might be getting sick, I sleep a lot and lay down and do nothing: no readying, watching, etc. My “why” is: When I’m really sick, my body makes me sleep and rest. So if I do that before I get to that point, I’m helping my immune system do its job.

- HYDRATE: Also great for singing and in general. Again, as a nation, despite ubiquitous access to clean, safe drinking water, we are chronically dehydrated. My “why” is: My body need to flush toxins that my immune system generates in fighting sickness. And my body works better and is less taxed when hydrated. Again, boosting my immune system.

- EAT WELL: I notice my immune system really gets taxed when I don’t eat well. I eat pretty simply and relatively inexpensively: A lot of whole, unprocessed foods, a good variety of things, and a lot of fruits and vegetables.

- EXERCISE: I notice my immune system goes down when I don’t exercise.

- MINDFULNESS: I practice a lot of mindfulness based sitting meditation. I notice it boosts my immune system and my well-being.

- DE-STRESS: I try to practice self-care and things that mitigate stress or reduce it. I notice my immune system

VIDEO LESSONS: As I mentioned above, I have long since offered and taught lessons via video. It works pretty well for most things. It’s not as efficient in a couple ways. And it has one big drawback (that we workaround in some different ways): Due to latency inherent in video and computers, we can’t play music together at the same time with both of our speakers on. This means we have to do some work arounds, which I will explain if you choose to do video lessons.

AND LASTLY:

If you have any questions, concerns or would just like to chat, don’t hesitate to call.

And given this email, please do what is best for you: Continuing lessons with important modifications. Video lessons. Cancelling short term. Or discontinuing until further notice.

And as I’m wrapping up, I want to acknowledge that this likely a time of great uncertainty, fear, anxiety, stress for many of us. Like many of you, I’ve personally experienced a several significant periods of my life that felt that way. For me, the silver lining and gift of those times and this one is a motivation to grow and evolve personally to meet the challenges I face. From that motivation, I find I seek out universal, human, helpful things that can help reduce the suffering therein. For me, the cornerstone has been mindfulness, which I would describe as: Awareness of what is true, while practicing equanimity. And among positive benefits from that practice has been my ever growing desire to be of service to others. As such, I will be sending another email in a day or so to all of current and former students and the rest of my network to talk about some ways that may be service to anyone that might be feeling difficulty in this uncertain time.

And in closing: We are interdependent species, we all share this world and we are all in this together. And my wish is that this brings out the best in us and that we find a healthy balance between our physical health and continuing to live our lives. As I said above: May we all experience as much ease as possible with any and all difficulties that arise during this time: physical, financial, personal, emotional & spiritual. May we all be in the best health possible.

With Gratitude,

John