Piano van: Hong Kong music lessons go mobile to beat virus

Hong Kong (AFP) –


Yoyo, 6, frowns with concentration as she plays the piano in the back of a truck -- still able to practise thanks to an innovative Hong Kong music school keeping lessons going during the coronavirus pandemic.

While Hong Kong's infections remain comparatively low -- just over 1,000 cases and four deaths -- schools have been shut since late January and authorities have ramped up social distancing measures in recent weeks.

Schools and tutoring services have had to switch to online lessons.

But music tutors like Evan Kam are trying to keep personal lessons going -- whilst reducing the risk of infection for both teachers and students.

"Video teaching doesn't suit us well as piano fingerings and gestures are better instructed with a teacher by your side," the 28-year-old told AFP.

The tutoring centre where Kam works saw business plunge by 70 percent in February when infections first crossed into Hong Kong from mainland China.

Many students stopped attending because they did not want to take public transport.

Inspired by mobile libraries, the company rented three trucks and fitted them into mobile music classrooms, complete with air-conditioning and soundproof boards.

"We wanted to keep our colleagues employed. That's why we wanted to step out of our comfort zone and see how far we can go," said Jessica Lam, the firm's business development manager.

"We like to offer our services directly to where the students live to shorten their travelling time," she added.

Last week Kam's truck was in Ha Tsuen, a remote village in northwest Hong Kong, close to the border with China.

After parking, he cleaned the keyboard, set up an air purifier, sprayed a doormat with disinfectant, and prepared hand sanitiser for his students.

Soon Alfred Tang, 10, and his sister Yoyo arrived.

Both beginners, Alfred played a gentle ballad called "Proud of You", while Yoyo perfected a rendition of the notoriously catchy "Baby Shark".

"It's convenient for us, as we can just go downstairs and take lessons," she told AFP.

"My children mostly just stay at home as schools have been suspended and we don't go into town that much."