2020 has been called many things some of which would not be appropriate to write here, but to me it was “The year of silence”. As a professional musician, I have spent my life practicing so that I can perform. Of course, there are other reasons to practice, but when performing is what feeds your family, you practice hard to create a memorable performance that inspires your audience. I had been a performer for 20 years with dozens, sometimes over a hundred performances each year. Enter 2020. The year started like any other with recitals, traveling, practicing, but it all came to a sudden halt when we entered the first shutdown in March. At first, I kept busy making recordings for my students, coaching on zoom, and trying to figure out how long the madness would last. Then at the end of May I got word that my full-time music position would be eliminated and thus the silence began.
It is now almost a year later and I just had my first small public performance (socially distanced, of course). This is the longest that I have ever gone without performing. Even as a kid I performed at least once a month in church or for a recital or school program. I, along with many other artists and performers, am trying to reinvent myself…do more teaching, focus on other areas of my life, bake, grow plants…but it is not the same. At first I didn’t mind the break. I enjoyed spending more time with my family and not feeling the pressure that comes with constant performances, but now I find my soul missing the music. Even though playing the piano was my job and could be tedious at times, the music still gave me something that is now missing. Imagine if you were suddenly unable to speak and you had to find other ways to communicate and interact with people. Of course, my situation is not that extreme, but I do feel like I have lost one of my senses and one of the ways in which I communicate and express myself. There is something about performing that brings me great joy and that joy is now missing. I know that I am not alone in this feeling. There are hundreds of thousands of musicians and actors across the world that are no longer doing live performances. Some have found ways to make beautiful recordings, create virtual choirs, and livestream performances, but it does not replace what we have lost in live performances with a live audience. Imagine if an alien dropped onto earth in the middle of 2020. He would never have been to a rock concert, seen a live symphony performance, or taken in a theater production in person. The concert halls and theaters have been dark for almost a year now.
If you know someone in the arts, reach out to them to see how they are doing. Ask them about the frustrations of learning new technology, about learning to teach virtually and motivate students who aren’t in the same room with them. Ask them what they are doing to nurture their spirit when they can’t perform. And perhaps most importantly of all, when all of this is past and we are able to sing again, sing loud and strong. Support the arts with vigor and make 2021 “The year that beautiful music returned.”