MANHATTAN — Charul Gopal is in her element at the piano.
"Music gives that peace and comfort and it is really a soul settling thing," Gopal said as she sat at the piano bench ready to start her lesson.
She's taking a lesson at a rehearsal studio with teacher Ru Zhang. Because of the pandemic, teacher and student are socially distanced, and the piano is covered with cellophane.
Charul is an actress and singer, but with her career on hold because of the pandemic, she has had time to take up the piano. She usually takes virtual lessons at home - but on this day she's with her teacher while her husband works from home and also watches their nine-year-old daughter.
"Swimming lessons, playdates and so on,” Gopal said. “After the pandemic there is nowhere we need to go. Everything has been shifted and that has really freed up a lot of time to do things you could not do [pre-pandemic]."
Her teacher, Ruobing "Ru" Zhang a Julliard graduate said more people have expressed interest in taking vocal lessons, or learning to play an instrument since the pandemic began.
"Some of that stems from people that have pianos at home or a keyboard lying around and now they're like ‘whoa, I can play that, go to that instrument because now I have the time,’” Zhang said.
After Gopal's in-person lesson, Zhang gave vocal lessons virtually.
"In-person lessons, I would say, are much better than virtual because there is that instant connection not having to worry about WiFi issues. Zoom also has it's benefits because of the convenience and also being able to teach from anywhere," Zhang said.
Zhang, a licensee with the Badiene Magazine Vocal Studio, says he has been fortunate to have worked through the entire pandemic. Since September, he has been safely incorporating in-person lessons.
"I think it is a blessing in disguise being able to adapt to virtual learning and while still keeping in person as an option," Zhang said.