No getting around it, the pandemic affects each and every one of us in ways so profound that we may never make sense of it all. Musicians and others in the arts have unique issues to deal with. Performance? Huge adjustments have to be made. My heart goes out to the musicians I know who depend upon performing as their primary source of income. The basic tenets of social distancing demand that even in best circumstances an artist’s audience is cut in half. And as most of the work-a-day musicians I know play primarily in bars and restaurants the bottom line for the venue owner comes into play. No surprise there; cutting expenses is the only way they are going to survive and suspending live music is a logical choice. No one blames them for that. As much as I hate to admit it, the old saw about music bringing in customers most likely is not true anymore. All things being equal, the risk of social interaction is not going to tilt in the direction of going to a venue just because they have live music. On a personal and local level all we can hope is that our friends and followers will support us as best they can after weighing the risk. I don’t think things are going to change anytime soon, even if a vaccine is found, which at this point is still a long way off.
For my part, teaching out of my studio again is going reasonably well. I take every precaution I can think of, from sanitizing every surface that I or my students come in contact with; requiring the use of masks (singing through a mask is a challenge, to say the least!); keeping a safe distance apart during the lesson; using hand sanitizer – both the student and myself – before each lesson; and requiring all students arrive with their guitars tuned up. I used to routinely take a student’s guitar at the start of a lesson, do a tuning, then give it back to them. No more. I’ve also been reiterating my long-time policy of demanding a student NOT come to their lesson if they have the slightest indication they may be getting sick, COVID-19 or anything else.
I’m done with remote lessons, thank God. It was a huge hassle for all concerned and marginally effective at best. But the feedback I’ve been getting is along the lines of: well, at least it kept me playing, and playing the guitar was the only thing that kept me from going crazy over the long weeks of self-quarantining. The amount of pre and post lesson work I had to do with remote lessons was at least twice what I have to do with face-to-face lessons. I do not miss that, and to be frank, it was hardly worth it money/time-wise. It was however the RIGHT thing to do when viewed in my rearview mirror. I just hope I don’t have to do it again…. or ever.
As I enter my second go-around of lessons since restarting them at my studio my sense is that my students are starting to feel more comfortable with the protocols, as I am. I know they are happy to be back and I’m happy to have them here and also appreciative. I did lose a few students permanently due to virus fears but I’m pretty sure new ones will appear. It’s important that all of us remember that relatively speaking, the whole situation is really quite recent, even though it seems to have been here for a long time. We’re all making unimaginable changes in everything we do and as more time passes and those changes are the new norm I’m confident that the love of making and listening to music will regain the level of importance it held only a few short months ago. I see many signs that it’s starting already, in fact.
Doing my weekly gig at the Daily Brew Café again has been wonderfully gratifying. Owner Kathy Hickey had always been wonderful to me and she totally “gets it” about the challenges facing musicians right now. She is a classy but tough lady whose staff is fiercely loyal and no venue owner, ever, has treated me with such respect. I have volunteered repeatedly in the last few weeks to play gratis but she insists on paying me, which has to be something of a stretch but shows what a class act she really is. Kathy loves music and knows that having live music at the Brew enhances the experience, especially now that customers can order their food and drink and sit at outdoor tables and chairs. She also understands what it means to me from a peace of mind perspective. Just as I have for the last eight-plus years, I look forward to playing there each and every week.
I have a couple weddings booked in September but who knows if they will be able to be held? I certainly hope so, not so much for the income (although that is nice to have!) but for the bride and groom and their families who must be agonizing over the choice of doing or postponing it.
Sorry I don’t have any pearls of wisdom about guitars and playing guitar today. I just wanted to check in here an let you know that I’m fine, my family is fine and like all of us I am counting my blessings. Stay strong, stay well, saty safe – and keep on playing your guitar!
Peace & good music,