The COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for many problems that creatives of all forms have experienced during this trying time. Procrastination and lack of motivation are some things I have personally struggled with throughout the pandemic and nationwide lockdowns when trying to engage with and finishing pieces of work within my creative practice, which I am sure are things that others of any field found very difficult. As we seem to be coming to the end of the way of life we have known for the past year we are all excited to get back out into normal life, but before we look forward I believe that this is the perfect time to reflect on what and how music, as entertainment or practice, has added to our lives throughout one of the hardest times in recent years.
The lack of contact with other musicians during the past year has been extremely detrimental, with in-person rehearsal time only being allowed to happen within the past 3 months. Collaboration and communication with other artists is often the driving force behind projects, just as getting a second opinion from a trusted colleague can alter your own viewpoint and help you perfect your work. Without this level of interaction it is easy for work to turn stale and seem chore-like. Within the past three months working towards performance exams, the rehearsal time we spent together after the best part of a year apart were some of the best rehearsals I have ever had the joy to be a part of. Although we are fortunate enough that online collaboration is now constantly available to us (which is in fact how Smiths magazine has functioned throughout this year) there are very few alternative ways to collaborate that will ever compare to an in-person meeting or rehearsal. Remote session work and collaboration has been one of the main building blocks of lockdown projects for many musicians; January ensemble exams, for instance, were to be submitted via video file. Due to this a new skill was learnt, and based on how the world of work looks at the moment, this type of video editing and creativity will most likely stay in our lives for a long time as an employable skill to have.
Although, as I have mentioned before, one of the main things that musicians such as myself have missed during the current pandemic is live performance opportunities ,and many musicians are desperate to get back to performing and rehearsing regularly as this makes up a large portion of income for a large proportion of modern day musicians. The safety of musicians must be coordinated with venues, as they are the workplaces of those musicians. In order for this to be done I would like to see the enforcing of two negative COVID-19 tests for all audience members and performers prior to the live events that are held in an indoor venue. Another prominent loss that has occurred during the recent return to live performance is the lack of standing only concerts and performances. Although all forms and styles of music can be appreciated and enjoyed while sitting at a table, a lot can also be said for the atmosphere and environment that a standing concert or performance provides. Sitting performances are a means for people to stay in their bubble of friends or family and therefore be able to attend events without the need to wear a face covering for the entirety of the event. Although I understand wearing a mask for an extended period of time can be very uncomfortable for some people, I myself would be very happy to wear a mask for an entire concert or performance in order to enter a standing event, in which I believe musicians and audience participants get more value for their money as performers and customers. This could even extend to musicians – as a guitarist I would be more than happy to wear a face covering if it was required of me during a live event. Clearly not all musicians are able to do this, but the sentiment is clear.
I am extremely pleased to see the recent return of live music events in indoor venues after the past twelve months of COVID-19 restrictions. Not only has entertainment for audience members been brought back, but so too has the livelihood of many musicians who rely upon gigging local venues as their source of income. My main concern, however, is for the safety and wellbeing of musicians whilst in their many different workplaces, and that venues themselves (alongside the government) are looking to protect the interest of musicians as they were previously forgotten at the beginning of the pandemic.