I am sorry, but I will be taking a few weeks off again. I have arthritis in my hands. Next week I will be having my 5th surgery to hopefully enable me to keep on playing the piano and typing without too much pain. I had hoped to have enough blogs written to be able to keep publishing without anymore gaps. That has not happened. My right index finger just hurts too much to be able to type with it. And trying to type without using that finger is a pain all it's own.
So, I will see you in a few weeks, after my finger has healed up a bit.
Last week, I wrote a little about some of the issues with performing these days. Along with being a performer, I am also a teacher. Some of the same problems are active here, too. When we sing, we tend to spray out the little droplets that can carry the virus. I cannot let students into my house to teach right now.
I have a kidney condition called Polycystic Kidney Disease. (It’s more of a condition than a disease. Unlike Covid-19, it is not contagious.) Currently, my kidneys are functioning at about 37%. The Coronavirus attacks kidneys. I cannot risk exposure.
But I don’t want to give up teaching. What to do?
I have joined the ranks of those who teach on-line. Is it ideal? No. Is it doable? Yes.
How does this work? Well, it starts with an email or a phone call. Let’s say that you are interested in voice or piano lessons. You find my website and send in the contact email. I respond. We chat a little, and then schedule that first meeting. In the past, this would be in my living room. We would have some tea, you would meet Xander, the out-going one of my two cats, and maybe the dogs, Rocky and Kaiser. We would talk about your goals, and you might sing something for me. Then we would talk about what kind of music you prefer, what you dislike, and start to map out a plan for your lessons. If you decided that this was what you wanted, then we would schedule your lessons. This first meeting is always free.
Nowadays, we still start out the same, with the emails and phone calls, but instead of you coming here, we meet on-line. I work primarily with Zoom and Skype. You would probably still meet Xander, he tends to insinuate himself into most of my on-line meetings. Whether we had tea would depend on if you made some for yourself. I will probably still have a cup. We would still talk about the same things, but there would be a couple of additions.
We would need to discuss accompaniments. You see, I usually accompany my students; I play the piano for them while they sing. This does not work for virtual lessons. There is always a slight lag between what you say and when I hear it. By the time I have played a note, and you hear it to sing, I have gone on to another note. Also, it is impossible for me to play and have you hear it while you sing. Only one person can be heard at a time.
There are a lot of options.
As a general rule, I dislike karaoke. I don’t want to sing It’s All Coming Back to Me Now just like Celine Dion. I want to sing it the way I sing it. However, it is a readily available option for a student, and there are a lot of free tracks out there on YouTube. I also have used a site that for a small monthly fee allows you to change the key and the tempo of a song, something that can come in handy for customizing to a student.
I have had a lot of success in recording accompaniments and then emailing that to students. Still not ideal, but I can put the song in a range that works for each student, and at a speed that they prefer.
When we work in person, there are certain things that I am used to listening and looking for. Many of those I can still see, tension in the voice or neck. And while I cannot see your whole body, I can still tell when you are standing properly, and am learning to listen for new things.
Distance is no longer an issue. Live in a different state? No problem, so long as we keep track of the time zones, we’ll be fine. I now have students in 3 different states!
As I said last week, we are artists. We are (hopefully) used to thinking outside of the box. We will get through these times, we just need to be creative. Would you be willing to lake on-line lessons? What do you think the pros and cons would be? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll be playing some of the songs that my students are working on right now, on my Minnich Music Facebook page, so be sure to check them out.
It seems that Covid-19 will be here throughout 2020. This has changed the artistic landscape profoundly. Concerts, musicals, and operas are now dangerous, both to the audiences and for the performers. The virus travels by minuscule droplets in the saliva. And you know what happens when you sing? You spray spit. It just happens.
Singing is part of what makes me ME. When I talk about someone who has an illness, for example, someone who has bipolar, I do not say that they are bipolar. I say that they have bipolar. Having bipolar disorder does not define them. But I am a singer. It defines me. I have been a singer since I was a very little girl. And, you know what? Singers tend to like performing. Some of us love performing. I am one of the latter. I go out of my way to find venues where I can sing.
Before all this hit, I was singing and playing the piano for 4 hours every Wednesday morning at one of the local hospitals. (They have a lovely grand piano in one of the lobbies for lucky volunteers to play.) I love performing in hospitals. You see someone who is scared, nervous, upset, and for just a moment, their step lightens and a smile crosses their face. You know that you have made a difference in that person’s life, even if only for a moment. I had people stop and talk, or – my favorite – people would sometimes stop and sing with me.
I also did programs for nursing homes. I don’t even mind too much that I wasn’t making much (any) money for these. I felt like I was making a difference with my music. And at the risk of sounding hopelessly corny, that was enough.
And now all of that is put on hold, with no idea when it can come back. This time of year High Tea Carolers should be starting rehearsals. (They are my Victorian caroling troupe. We do make money each year.) But it is not safe for us either to rehearse or to sing in public. At the beginning of all this there was a choir in Washington state with 61 members. They were social distancing. In the end 50 people got sick, and 2 died.
What can we do?
Some venues are opening at 20% capacity and enforcing mask-wearing. Others are going for something along the lines of a drive-in movie, with concert goers sitting in their cars, honking horns instead of clapping their hands. The Met gala this year went virtual, with opera singers performing in their homes, sometimes with unexpected accompaniments and staging.
I saw two singers in France who went to a nursing home and sang outside in the parking lot. They did a 20-minute set four times, once for each side of the building. I keep thinking about something like that.
Music and all the performing arts will find a way. Not only are the arts vital to those who perform, they are vital to the life of our culture. We just need to be creative. After all, that is what we do best. Do you have any ideas for safe ways to perform? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll be playing music by people who have figured out ways to make this work all week on my Minnich Music Facebook page, so be sure to check them out.