Dave Yates designs teaching isolation shield for face-to-face lessons

Necessity is most definitely the mother of invention, and that’s exactly what led east Tennessee-based music instructor, Dave Yates, to come up with a plan to get back to work as soon as possible. Yates, who has taught bluegrass and country style music lessons in the Johnson City, TN, area for 38 years, had recently experienced a sharp drop-off in the amount of students taking in-person lessons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of his students are older adults who were unable to come to his studio, and were unfamiliar with technology-based platforms like Zoom or Skype. 

After several weeks of this, however, Yates began to consider how he might be able to get students back taking lessons safely after shelter-in-place orders were lifted and non-essential businesses allowed to open again. He noticed that many restaurants, banks, and other businesses had installed clear Plexiglass dividers between employees and customers to create safer face-to-face interactions. Thanks to a background in construction, he began working on a similar creation for himself.

Yates ended up creating a framed Plexiglass room divider, using the concept of a drum shield. When his students are able to return, he’ll sit on one side while the students sit on the other. In this way, he’ll still be able to teach while still maintaining appropriate social distancing. He even installed a hand-washing station outside his studio, as well. He hopes that as Tennessee begins lifting restrictions over the next few weeks, he’ll be able to put it all to good use.

Covid-19 has been difficult for many, if not most, folks in the music industry, especially those who depend on live and in-person interaction to support themselves. A little ingenuity goes a long way, however, proving that even a pandemic can’t defeat everything.

Meanwhile, Yates will be working on his other passion, landscape oil paintings, and waiting until the time he can get his guitars and fiddles back out. 

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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.