The first thing one may notice about music teacher Sandy Polcyn is her smile.

   It’s ever-present.

   Even when she’s dealing with difficult circumstances.

   “I have a mantra with the students, especially when we’re on music trips. If you don’t like something, just smile and nod, and let’s move forward,” she said. “So are there days that I just smile and nod? Sure; we all have those days. But you know, the next day is a new day.”

   Somehow, perhaps inexplicably, Sandy is continuing to smile even as she faces what may be the biggest challenge of her 33-year career.

   Teaching music to band students — without a band.

   It’s not going to be easy during this time of virtual learning due to COVID-19, Sandy admits. But it’s not an entirely foreign concept to her, either.

   “Last year, one of the band students was studying over in Italy ... We Skyped and tried to play with him,” Sandy said, laughing about how it really didn’t work well. “[He told me], ‘Yeah, Mrs. Polcyn, that didn’t really quite work out ... You guys were 10 measures ahead of me.’”

   But, in typical Sandy Polcyn fashion, this does not seem to have her down.

   “I had a couple of sleepless nights because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, first of all, I’m not going to see the kids! And then secondly, how am I going to help them to continue to grow as a musician?’” Sandy said. “And then I realized [I can still do this with technology]. There’s 115 of them, so it might be a little bit more time consuming, but it’ll all be worth it.”

   She’s good at seeing the bright side of a situation, even this one where she won’t get to see her beloved students for potentially a long time.

Read the full story in the March 19, 2020 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.