Coronavirus: The lone pianist

This article was last updated on 16 April 2020.

Gyan Maria is a 20-year-old student. He is studying for a Bachelor of Music and Piano Performance at the Royal Northern College of Music. Gyan is from America, but decided to stay here in the UK when the world went into lockdown.

He is almost entirely alone, spending his days playing the piano in student halls.

When school was officially closed, I was really sad about that for a while.

On my own

I am living on my own in student halls. I am the only person left apart from two or three others. There are six or seven buildings, each with six floors, and normally eight people to a floor - so that gives you an idea of how isolated we now are.

Every few days we see each other. We have all been self-isolating, so we know it is safe. We have been taking turns cooking for each other. I have a kitchen all to myself now.

I haven’t really been outside yet - except to pick up food. Maybe I will when the weather warms up.

Keeping busy

I have a piano in my room, so I practise every day. I read and watch TV. I am keeping up with the news. Like most people, I spend a lot of time worrying about what is going on. I am constantly checking the BBC and social media to see what is happening around the world.

I call my family and friends. I've spoken to them more in the past few weeks than in my first six or seven months here.

Gyan playing Schumann's Traumerei Kinderszenen on his piano in halls

There are enough things to keep me busy. The issue is me keeping motivation up.

This is a good time for me to explore things I might not normally do. I have been trying out composing and jazz piano, and listening to things I might not normally listen to.

It is hard to be productive with one’s time. Some days I do a lot of stuff, and then the next day I feel really unmotivated to do anything.

Family

I felt homesick for the first time this week.

My mum and sister are in America. My mum lives in Connecticut. She’s been staying at home and seems to be doing OK. My sister lives with her boyfriend in New York City. I know things have got quite bad there.

My dad lives in Hong Kong. He is looking after my grandparents. I am worried about them as they are quite elderly. My grandfather is 89 and my grandmother is 83.

I decided to stay here because I don’t have a piano to play back home. I also don’t have any health insurance in the United States. If I got ill, that would be quite an expensive trip to the hospital.

I felt homesick for the first time this week, because there is nothing going on. If school was still happening, I could keep my mind off it.

Future

When I graduate, I would like to work as a répétiteur for an opera company. That means I would play the orchestral parts on the piano for the singers during rehearsals.

I had work like that lined up over the summer in Salzburg, but I think that might be cancelled now. They have told me on email that they are keeping an eye on the situation.

The bigger picture

Loneliness is what everyone is going through on some level.

What we are going through is real and it sucks. It is not fun to self-isolate. Loneliness is what everyone is going through on some level at the moment. For college students, all that fun being taken away early is hard.

But I have my health. My family has its health. I have food.

I hope at the end of this people realise the importance of human to human connection. I hope everyone will realise the value of general courtesy and kindness that make society a better place.

For advice on looking after your mental health during this time, you can visit YoungMinds or Mind.

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