Thursday, April 2, 2020

Column: Musicians are struggling amid COVID-19, but there are still ways to support them

March 25, 2020
Dozens of local community members enjoyed live music during the 2019 Summer Concert Series on Friday, August 23, 2019, in downtown East Lansing. 
(Sylvia Jarrus/The State News)
Dozens of local community members enjoyed live music during the 2019 Summer Concert Series on Friday, August 23, 2019, in downtown East Lansing. (Sylvia Jarrus/The State News) —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Jazz studies senior Matt Heilmann's final classes at Michigan State have been canceled. He’s no different from any other student in that sense, but that cancellation of classes that everyone experiences includes his senior recital.

For music majors, a senior recital is a performance that encapsulates everything they’ve learned in their studies. It’s a chance for a student musician to perform the styles of music that drove them to pursue an education in the arts for their family, friends, professors and classmates.

Heilmann's recital was scheduled for March 15, and was canceled as part of the university's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Ironically, the arts are the first thing to go in a crisis” Heilmann said.

For music students, the global pandemic presents a tricky situation for the foreseeable future.

Many major artists touring in the U.S. have postponed or outright canceled their concert dates for the year. Most music festivals scheduled for the summer have either been postponed or canceled as well.

Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival has been rescheduled for September, Coachella has been postponed until October and South by Southwest has been canceled. Festival organizers and musicians are doing everything they can to make the health and well-being of the public their main concern amid the spread of COVID-19.

For popular musicians performing around the country, managing a stretch of time without work is difficult, but not impossible. Local and college musicians like Heilmann are having a much harder time.

“Musicians I work with have pretty much resorted to offering online instruction or even live streaming ‘gigs’ for tips. It’s rough out here.” Heilmann said.

The nation-wide cancellation of arts events is having a trickle-down effect that's hitting smaller artists in a harsh way.

The streaming route is one avenue that many artists have taken in an attempt to stay connected with fans. Some globally-recognized musicians like Vance Joy have even partnered with Global Citizen and the World Health Organization for Together at Home Global Citizen Solidarity Sessions.

A summer without concerts and music festivals is one of the many unprecedented things that have come to fruition in 2020. While we’re going to experience a summer without many of the festivals and cultural events we’re accustomed to, we won’t be without the music itself.

I’ve watched a few livestreams, and while it’s nothing like experiencing your favorite musician at their concert, it’s a way for us to stay connected while we try to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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