When the coronavirus hit, Izzie Chea lost 90% of her business.
Chea runs her business, Encore Music Studio, out of her home in Pearland. She teaches adults and children piano, voice and flute, although most of her clients were young children. Once people began to social distance, Chea was unable to hold classes.
“Having to go from seeing all my sweet kids to nothing broke my heart,” Chea said.
Chea’s husband encouraged her to begin to stream her classes on YouTube. While the thought had never appealed to her, it seemed like the only way for her to continue to teach during the pandemic, she said.
Chea posted her first virtual piano class to her Facebook page, not expecting much engagement at the time.
“The event post in a way kind of went viral, which was crazy,” she said. “The initial event itself was shared 800 times, I think.”
Suddenly, she went from teaching four students remotely to teaching students all across the world; her farthest student resides in Kuwait.
“I’m touching lives and I’m touching families across the world and it’s fantastic,” she said. “Even in this really strange time we are in, it’s bringing people peace.”
Chea hosts a virtual piano lesson for children every Friday and for adults every Saturday. By request, she has also starting posting practice videos so people know the best way to practice a song.
“We aren’t striving for perfect out here. We just want to become better at what we are doing. That is the most important part,” Chea said.
Lessons consist of students playing in unison with Chea followed by her introducing the songs for the next week. Chea tries to assign two songs a week for practice. She also ends every lesson with an inspirational music quote.
Though Chea never saw herself doing video, she said she cannot imagine letting it go. She plans to continue it even once she is able to teach in person lessons again, she said.
“I don’t think I could go back to not doing these because I have started the building blocks of relationships with these people; I can’t leave them hanging,” Chea said.
When Chea lost a lot of her in-person clients, she lost most of her livelihood as well. Once she began teaching online, she created a virtual tip jar, so people can tip her if they feel they are able to.
However, Chea refers to herself as a natural teacher who feels joy at teaching, even with the cut in pay.
“The money that I am losing, of course it hurts, but I feel that what I am gaining in relationships and healing for people is so much more than what money could bring,” she said.
She believes that music is especially important for her mental health, as well as that of her students.
“We have some moments of emotion, we may express joy, sadness, frustration. That’s the beautiful thing about music; it allows you to express or connect in a way being on you iPad or social media doesn’t,” she said.
While lessons cannot be in person, music is needed now more than ever, Chea said.
“It’s interesting that in times of crisis people are turning to artistic things like music and art and sculpture and poetry,” she said. “That’s what being human is, right?”