As normalcy starts to return, vaccinated Pittsburghers decide how much to drop their guard

Now that 31-year-old Forest Hills resident Falencia Jean-Francois is fully vaccinated, she has been seeing her violin instructor in person again. Throughout the pandemic, her instructor Susanna Sonnenberg switched entirely to virtual lessons but now allows fully vaccinated students to again visit her home in Edgewood, unmasked.

Being back with Sonnenberg proved a little awkward at first. Jean-Francois teaches third graders at Braddock Elementary School, so she’s used to being around others, but the only unmasked social interaction she had during the pandemic was with her wife.

“Being in a social situation, I almost didn’t know what to do at first,” she said. “But it was really easy to kind of slide back into our old routine.”

Some of Sonnenberg’s students have realized that, regardless of any health concerns, it’s just more convenient to attend their music lessons virtually. Jean-Francois considered that but ultimately decided she wanted to get back to in-person lessons.

“Susanna and I play together when we’re in person,” Jean-Francois said. “And so, when I’m playing, I’m also listening to her play, and I can quickly correct my mistakes because I can hear what it’s supposed to sound like. It’s not really possible to do that online because of the lag in sound.”

Jean-Francois understands why mask-wearing and social distancing has been so crucial throughout the pandemic, but taking off her mask and playing with Sonnenberg feels to her like the sort of normalcy Americans have missed for more than a year.

“I teach all day, and so teaching in a mask and talking in a mask, it’s just, it’s kind of suffocating,” she said. “So, being out, I felt like I could actually breathe.”

Falencia Jean-Francois practices her violin during a lesson with instructor Susanna Sonnenberg in Edgewood on June 19. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)


As normalcy starts to return, vaccinated Pittsburghers decide how much to drop their guard


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