by Len Lear
The Local routinely runs feature articles on professional local musicians who perform in Northwest Philadelphia, the nearby suburbs or elsewhere. Now that all such performances have been cancelled for the foreseeable future because of the coronavirus pandemic, how are those musicians faring? We checked in with several of them, and here are the comments of those who replied, edited for space:
•Katie Eagleson, Flourtown, jazz/pop singer (katieeagleson.com):
“We’ve had seven jobs cancel so far. We have three coming up in April that I suspect will cancel. And since most of our work is in retirement communities, they may keep outsiders out until the coast is really clear, so who knows how long we’ll be affected.? I also teach singing, and those lessons have gone online, so there will be no break in income on that front. Lenny (her husband) and I are in Florida at the moment until the end of the month, so I’ve had a substitute teacher taking care of my singing students since January. It’s actually Megan McCormick. You did an article about her theatre company, Sine Timore, recently. So I’ll start teaching online when I get back, but I’ll lose about half my working income till things get back to normal.
“Because we’re in our 60s, we have retirement savings that we can tap into, so although that wasn’t the plan, we’ll be OK. I really feel for the younger musicians who live a little more hand-to-mouth. This will be tougher and scarier for them. I feel bad that I can’t visit my brother, who lives in a nursing home in New York. That’s the sad aspect, but I expect to get stuff done that I’ve been putting off and learn a bunch of new songs.”
•Marja Kaisla, Chestnut Hill, classical pianist (marjakaisla.org):
“I am doing solo recordings now of repertoire that I had recently performed and wanted to concentrate on those projects. Secondly, I am learning a bunch of new repertoire I haven’t played before (including Brahms, Kapustin and Stravinsky) and wanted to take the time to really concentrate on that music. So in some ways I can ‘comfortably’ sit at home and practice and not worry about the practically insane and potentially frightening situation occurring outside of my musical universe.
“Regarding teaching, most students don’t obviously venture outside right now like the rest of us, so financial consequences are following accordingly. However, I’m having most enjoyable lessons with some students on Skype.
“I must say that I am very fortunate to be a musician, not only when times are good but especially when uncertainty about our future is knocking on our door, as it is now. Musicians work in the unknown, unfolding and discovering, making sense and order out of seeming chaos; musicians understand that silence is just as important as sound; musicians find a way to express the most private thoughts and feelings that cannot be said with words; musicians are the healers of the world.”
•Adam Monaco, Mt. Airy, singer/instrumentalist of Under the
“Under The Oak (his band) has lost all of their gigs, and 15 of my solo performances were canceled. House concerts and restaurant gigs. We need to stay home and stay positive; we are not alone. Missing out on gigs is hard, but we can pursue creative alternatives for work. I will be putting together some live online performances and promoting my Patreon page (artistic platform). We have to remember that what happens in the world affects the whole world! These imaginary lines mean nothing: we are all neighbors, and all must work together.”
•Rebecca Myers, Chestnut Hill, classical singer (rebeccamyerssoprano.com):
“Yes, like many others, all of my work was suddenly cancelled. My next two large scale projects, a Crossing project with performances in Philadelphia and at Carnegie Hall, and a St. Matthew Passion with Apollo’s Fire in Cleveland were both cancelled. I have two things at the end of April which are still up in the air … Yes, it is incredibly hard financially. I have not really been teaching and have been relying solely on performing, so I don’t really have anything to fall back on. Luckily, I have very supportive and generous parents who are willing to help me during this time if I need it. I know everyone is suffering in different ways, but the freelance musician world has been absolutely devastated by this, and I hope we can all recover.”
•Hankus Netsky, Mt. Airy native, Klezmer musician and music professor (necmusic.edu):
“My situation is a lot better than that of most musicians I know since I have a full-time teaching gig (co-department chair, Contemporary Improvisation, New England Conservatory) that pays a salary. I believe the school is on pretty solid footing since its been here since 1867. As for cancellations, I did lose a three-day residency/concert in St. Louis, which would have been at the end of March, and I don’t know the exact status of some work in Connecticut and New York in April … I’m trying to look on the bright side and think of these as postponements rather than cancellations, but if this all drags into June, I’ll lose a lot more since summer is festival season.
“A lot of the people I know really have lost most of their income, although these days it’s not uncommon to teach at least some students on Skype. Some musicians are trying to make up what they can by having Instagram events. (My nephew’s Indie band, Maybird, already did that.) There’s also a bit of help available for those of us in the union (the Petrillo Fund), and various musical non-profits and individuals are trying to do fundraising campaigns.”
•Adam Darer, founder of Mt. Airy-based jazz band, Parlour
“We’re expecting all of our shows through at least the end of May to be cancelled, but we’ll see. We have 20 shows scheduled for March – May, including two weddings (one at World Cafe Live), two big gala fundraisers, seven swing dances and a bunch of private events. We’re holding up OK, spending this time practicing our instruments and listening to recordings. But the missed income from not playing these shows is starting to add up. We’re encouraging our fans and people looking to support us to visit our Patreon fundraising site: patreon.com/join/parrlournoirjazz, where for a small monthly fee, we’re giving away some great behind-the-scene videos, merchandise and other promotions.”
•David Darwin, Mt. Airy, a “one-man sideshow” (onemansideshow.com):
“About 15 scheduled gigs have cancelled, and a few have
rescheduled. At this point everything in the next two months is gone. I expect
most of the following month’s income will be lost, too. Most of my income came
from gatherings of 100 or more people. With that now banned in most states, it
will likely be a long time before I can work again.
“We are in the incredibly enviable position of being able to get by on my wife’s income if we tighten the belt. She is working from home for the foreseeable future. I miss performing already. I miss the travel and the adventure. My last gig before social distancing was the San Diego Busker Festival. It was wonderful to perform for crowds down by the water with sailboats and tall ships drifting past in the harbor behind me. It was especially nice to meet other solo traveling performers and talk shop about our craft. I know I will come back to that life one day but not today.
“At the same time, my mother is a cancer patient and so is immune compromised from her chemotherapy. My loss of a few months of income isn’t really significant compared with the ability to protect her and others in her position. I’m very aware of what’s at stake, and I’m happy to stay at home if that’s what’s needed from me to help.”
•Sam Quintal, spokesman for Mt. Airy-based Jasper String Quartet (jasperquartet.com):
“We opted out of traveling to Idaho last Thursday, and shortly after that we had everything cancelled through May. It seems very possible that the cancellations could extend beyond that, but we’re taking things a day at a time. We will probably look into doing some streaming concerts, but we are taking some time to get a handle on the best way forward and to spend time with our families.”
•Monnette Sudler-Honesty, Germantown, jazz guitarist/composer (monnettesudlermusic.com):
“I have had 20 gigs cancelled so far. I may be able to be OK for a month or so. I am a lung transplant patient from 2013. I still take immune suppressing drugs. I am able to do a couple FaceTime lessons. Otherwise, nothing.”
•Gemma Sherry, Mt. Airy, jazz singer (gemmasherry.com):
“I’ve sadly had seven singing gigs cancel. I’ve had to cancel my Australian tour, which I was very excited about announcing. I’ve also had five wedding DJ gigs cancelled/rescheduled so far. I also had to make the decision not to go to Australia because I would have to self-isolate for 14 days to protect my parents.
“It was a shock to the system for the first couple of days, but there really isn’t much you can do about it, and everyone is in the same situation. The worst part is not knowing when things will be OK, so it’s almost impossible to reschedule gigs for another time and/or start planning another tour.”
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org