In the midst of unprecedented times, several musicians have faced a new challenge: several auditions that have typically been in-person have now switched to a virtual format. For many musicians, this is a MUCH more comfortable audition method! However, I consider myself as more of a “one and done” kind of gal. I want to walk onto a stage, introduce myself, sing for a judge, and then call it a day… but sometimes, you gotta record your audition from your apartment. I like to think I’ve got my virtual audition method down to a science, and I would love to share it with you!
For the past year and a half, COVID has heavily impacted our way of life, particularly as students. I am very fortunate that we have in-person classes once again and that the university is taking careful precautions to ensure that COVID will not hinder that. I was lucky to be able to experience college life my freshman year before all of this happened, but now that we’re back in person, it seems that the transition happened way too fast and we as students have to keep up with it.
Opening the violin case is a very hard process at times. It often means you are about to focus extremely hard for a long period of time. It is much more convenient to just swipe past the Google Docs tab I’m writing on, to stop on Netflix about two slots over, or go grab lunch with friends. In musical communities, these negatives exit the mind, because everyone else is going to rehearsal/practice as well. It’s inspiring, because you see the hard work and great music of your peers, and also competitive because odds are the person you are listening to will be competing for a job or ensemble seating in the future. However, that practice room inspiration got taken away recently due to the epidemic. For a long time, there were no ensembles, no summer camps, no concerts, and no trips with friends to the practice rooms. How does a musician gain the motivation to practice during the pandemic?
Previously, I wrote about singing a concert in Foellinger Great Hall with the University of Illinois Chamber Singers, which was recorded for Carle Hospital patients. We did not record all of our repertoire, and the following week, we decided to continue our recording streak, but this time, it would be in a strikingly different location! The Women’s Glee Club has used the Krannert Center Green Parking Garage for their rehearsals and recordings, so we followed their lead, and the results were fabulous! Dr. Megill spoke highly of the acoustics in this unique space-- he compared them to those of a cathedral, which would make the space ideal for some of our haunting a capella pieces.
The University of Illinois has responded to the pandemic in the most responsible way possible while still allowing students to have in-person opportunities. Many schools in America have mandated a simple facemask policy, others, have gone as far as converting to online learning for the full academic year. Our institution, however, goes above and beyond.
It has been a long year of staying inside and hiding from the world, but it seems that time is slowly being halted. Today, I got my first of two covid vaccines and my nurse, Carla, could not have been nicer. Before we began, I told her I wasn’t a huge fan of vaccines. . .she laughed as she looked at the six visible tattoos on my arms and let me know that she would talk me through it. I asked her if it would be okay to take a picture, so the pharmacist came over and obliged.
If you’re like me, practicing at home for you is, at times, difficult. I LOVE the peaceful nature of a blank, quiet, room at the music building, with no distractions but the sound of my colleagues practicing. It’s taken me a while to adjust to practicing at home during this difficult time, but it just has to be done. Here are some things that have helped me figure it out along the way:
I really should be working on being able to explain and explore chapter one of my dissertation, but it seems that writing a blog took priority over that today. (This is what Dr. Barrett calls, “dissertation avoidance behavior” and I am AWESOME at it!)
Most weekends I have a LOT of work to do and it is almost impossible to do anything at home. My kid is there, my wife is there, the couch and the television are there...need I say more?
Incredibly, the last time I was in the Krannert Center’s cavernous Foellinger Great Hall, one of the great treasures of our university, was March 2020, almost a year ago. The last day before the pandemic fully took hold, I was on that familiar stage performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” with the Men’s Glee Club, non-treble voices of Oratorio Society and Chamber Singers, soloist Ricardo Herrera, and the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra led by Donald Schleicher. This was also the last time I performed with a large ensemble for a large audience, and even the last time I have been in a room with that many people for any purpose. This performance took on particular weight when we found that we would not perform the piece at Carnegie Hall and that this would be our last chance to communicate Shoshtakovich’s fiercely relevant political message. The performance was life-affirming in every sense, and its memory still thrills when I think about its eternal temporal place on the edge of a pre-pandemic era.
When this pandemic began to shut everything down back in March of 2020, schools of music were no exception. Live music stopped, music school students returned home, and we were left to figure out how to create music virtually; at a time when music was needed the most. Now, on the dawn of a vaccine horizon, we are again trying to figure out our next steps. Although I am not able to offer answers to the scientific questions surrounding musicians and the pandemic, I am able to offer my own experiences with performing chamber music during the pandemic, in the hope that some of my success and failures can help current and future Illinois music students navigate these crazy times and bring music back to our community… safely!