Coaching during Covid Pianist and NOS Assistant Head of Music, Dearbhla Collins, discusses how her work at the National Opera Studio has been impacted by Covid-19 and shares the positives that have come out of this situation during coaching sessions with our Young Artists. The entire working world is now totally fluent in Zoom and its uses and limitations. Having hardly ever heard of it just over a year ago, musical coaches the world over have learnt how to use it and get the best results out this new medium. As a pianist and Assistant Head of Music at the National Opera Studio, my normal musical coaching sessions with the Young Artists take place in the coaching rooms with me playing for them and giving encouragement and helpful criticism at the same time. Stopping to do a phrase over and over again to make sure the vowel is placed correctly, walking around the room and encouraging them to relax the body, asking them to sing the aria in their own language so they can really feel the emotion behind the words. Most of this is completely impossible over a computer screen. The beautiful silvery top notes go out of the range of the microphone, the musical drive of the line gets lost and most importantly, because of time lags, a singer and a pianist cannot play and sing a song / aria together remotely. So now we find ourselves in a very strange position of sitting at our desks Zooming on the computer screen with the scanned music score open on the iPad and the piano in the corner hardly being played! But as creative people, we have turned this to our advantage as much as possible. As we can’t play at the same time as they sing, we find ourselves listening even more intently to their acapella voices and being really meticulous to get all details correct. We can do much more work on the text and the sub text - for example focusing on the historical context. “As we can’t play at the same time as they sing, we find ourselves listening even more intently to their a capella voices and being really meticulous to get all details correct.” One of the things I have prioritised is languages for the Young Artist repetiteurs. These Young Artists are normally so busy going from room to room to play for their singers’ coaching sessions that they haven’t always had the language teaching and support they need before heading away from us into the big world of work. Now we have made sure that they get as many coachings of their own as possible in Italian, German and French. All languages they will need when working at an opera house. I have also set up special classes for them where I guide them through German lieder and arias and give them tips on how to coach the correct vowels and consonants and placement to young singers. I hope and believe that this will really make them stand out when they audition for opera houses in the UK and further afield. As restrictions ease, we welcome live coaching back with open arms, but we also hope to retain the good things we have learnt and had to adapt to during this very challenging year.