We’ve all had plenty of time to reflect on just about every aspect of our lives and our place in the world. That’s something that is very, very scary for many people. It gets to a central question of self-worth. Am I really all that important in this world? Who would miss me if I’m gone, and how quickly would they move on and naturally begin to bring the focus totally back to their own situation? We all have only so much emotion we can give to any aspect of our lives and with this being such an emotional time many of us realize that even among the people who love us, it would be easy for us to become not much more than a footnote. For my part, assuming I buy into this way of thinking, I think I understand and accept that. Life will go on.
So here is how I’m coming around more and more to that acceptance, which I guess is also a way to mitigate my fears. Music. Playing music, listening to music, sharing music, writing music, thinking about music. I’ve always had a deep emotional attachment to music, more than most people I think. It soothes my soul, it excites me, it frames moments in my life. My love of music was nurtured very early on by my parents, for which I will always be more grateful than I can express. I wish I had told them that when they were alive.
There’s a line from a song by James Taylor that goes: “Me and my guitar, always in the same mood.” Always brings a smile to my face because regardless of how I’m feeling at that moment it is so, so true. And here’s a strange thing. I’ve found that lately I’m a lot less critical of my playing and singing than I was not all that long ago. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to play and sing as best I can, I just don’t get as frustrated as I used to. Maybe that’s because some part of my brain has come to terms with my mortality and the fact that in spite of my best efforts I too could become a statistic in the war against Covid-19. So I rejoice in every moment I play, no matter what comes out.
I know a few of my students feel the same way, some of my musician friends too, because they’ve told me as much. Doing remote lessons via Zoom has been a challenge for both my students and myself, I readily admit that. Between technological issues and the fact that I can’t play along with them due to latency (lag time) using remote video and audio platforms it has been very frustrating at times. But I do know that the students who have been doing the remote lessons with me have appreciated having new material to play and having something out of their daily routine (scheduled lessons) gives them something to look forward to. That is something that’s absolutely vital in this challenging and unprecedented time we are living in. Like most people, I often don’t even know which day it is without carefully thinking about it so anything that breaks the monotony of our current day-to-day existence has great value. About half my students opted to not do the remote lessons for various reasons and I hope they have continued to play and find joy in doing so.
Starting next week I will be welcoming students back to my studio. I made this decision after careful thought. There will be protocols in place including the use of hand sanitizer before and after lessons, wiping down of all surfaces that could be touched or handled before and after each lesson, plus more detailed cleaning at the end of each day I teach. Masks will be worn at all times; I will separate the chairs we use farther apart and will no longer tune each student’s guitar at the beginning of a lesson. Most of my students including most who were not taking remote lessons will be returning. A few have opted to discontinue lessons; my guess is that those few have not been playing much and I hope they will decide to return sometime in the future. But I do have three new students starting in the next two weeks, which is great. A few have opted to continue remote lessons for various reasons.
I’ve been doing something I call my Sunday Morning Live Coffee Music Sessions on Facebook Live for the last six weeks. This was another major technological challenge and it took me a few weeks to get a reasonable decent sound, fidelity-wise. I’ve learned a lot doing it – starting with the simple fact that no matter how fancy your own equipment may be, you are still at the mercy of the sound reproduction values imposed by Facebook. This coming Sunday I will be doing it from the back deck of the Daily Brew Café, my favorite place to play, continuing my string of eight years performing there. I’m really psyched for this and if you’re inclined to check it out, go to my Cape Cod Acoustics Facebook page at 11 a.m. this coming Sunday, or better yet if you’re in the area, order some food and drink and stop by. The sessions are always recorded for viewing later, too. Although restaurants are still closed in Massachusetts for anything other than take-out, the idea is to offer some music while people are waiting to pick up their orders. As always, I am very grateful to owner Kathy Hickey for giving me this chance to perform live even if the playing is only for a few people at a time. Hopefully, in a few weeks our governor will allow restaurants to reopen (with social distancing protocols of course) but in the meantime I’ll continue to do my live sessions on Facebook Live every Sunday, whether at the Brew or here in my studio. Who knows? If the reception is good about doing it at the Brew I may continue to do Facebook Live thing there even when the café reopens. Time will tell.
I was the subject of an article in our local newspapers (Falmouth, Bourne, Sandwich and Mashpee Enterprise) a week or so ago where I explained my live broadcasts and what I was hoping they would accomplish. Some very nice feedback and comments have come my way since the story came out, which is very gratifying. Basically what I said was that like so many musicians in these trying times, all I really want to do is play. As I said earlier, it soothes the soul. I’m more grateful than ever that guitar playing and singing are a big part of who I am. It really just comes down to this: making music takes our minds to some other place, a place of joy and constant amazement, something we need now more than ever.
Be safe, be well, hug those you love if you can, be strong and stay sane. “This too shall pass.”
Peace & good music,