Working from home: canal boat-based piano tuition
PUBLISHED: 17:34 03 February 2021 | UPDATED: 17:34 03 February 2021
Liveaboard Tracy Rose turned her narrowboat into an international hub for her music tuition business
Boats and music have been constants in Tracy Rose’s life.
“I started playing the piano at six. I always wanted to work with music, but I was a shy performer so went into teaching,” said Tracy, who runs her tuition service, Music Lessons Anywhere, from Andechs, her 70ft Colecraft narrowboat.
She was a student at the London College of Music when she moved onto a 38 ft Springer, this was moored on the Thames in Kingston. Eventually Tracy moved her boat to Manchester, which she described as ‘a bit of a shock’.
“It took about a week, travelling the Peak Forest and the Leeds & Liverpool and all around Manchester.”
Teaching work took Tracy north, and it was here that she met her husband Paul, who also had a boat. “We met at a toilet point. So romantic!”
The couple eventually came ashore and moved to Spain, where they spent 19 years living more or less self-sufficiently, and Tracy saw her online music tuition business grow.
“My parents adore canals and love boats, and when we went back to visit we’d regularly go for canal walks. We realised we wanted a change again,” she said, adding that her parents becoming older also spurred the decision to return in 2017.
“We knew we wanted to go back on a boat. We wanted to experience different places and couldn’t imagine living in a house.”
Tracy and Paul wanted a boat ‘with portholes and a vintage engine,’ and Andechs was the last boat they saw ‘out of the water and looking a bit unloved.’
It was given a repaint at Aqueduct Marina ‘in music school livery’ was moored there, spent time at New Mills and can now be found on a private island mooring in Harefield. “We love it,” said Tracy.
Teaching music remotely on a narrowboat has not been a problem.
“It’s dead easy. I have an electric piano in my little cabin and teach on board. We have almost three hundred students from over 40 different countries,” she said, adding that some of the lessons are handled by 18 work-from-home supply teachers.
Paul – a graphic designer– runs the administration side of the operation and looks after the website. “We never thought we’d work together, but our skills complement each other. To be honest we haven’t really noticed lockdown.”
Classes are often dictated by time zone differences, with Asian students having lessons in the morning, and American students later in the day.
Getting a decent internet signal ‘has been better than we’d expected,’ and classes have been taught even when the boat is away from its home mooring. “You walk along the towpath and check the signal,” said Tracy.
The idea of living in a house still doesn’t appeal to Tracy and Paul, with Tracy saying that this would make her feel ‘hemmed in’.
“Although we have a mooring we could move on if we wanted to, and we’re closer to nature, a bit more connected to the outside world.”
The idea of a widebeam or a Dutch barge appeals, “but we’re really happy with what we’ve got”.