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Adapting To Survive During Lockdown, by Alex Belsey
At the beginning of March, like most freelance musicians, I was looking forward to a busy few months of teaching music one-to-one and running ensembles, followed by an increasingly full schedule of exciting and fulfilling performances – including a special night lined up at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on April 29th.
However, as March progressed, it became ever clearer that the year ahead was going to be very different to the one we had planned.
Like many in the arts world, our work dried up almost overnight (as it did for those in many other industries too), with phone calls, texts, and emails all flooding in, each of them bringing new cancellations.
Not only that, but with the closure of schools and a full lockdown imposed towards the end of March, it was clear that face-to-face teaching was going to be out of the question for the next few months.
As creative people in a tough industry, we are used to adversity, but this certainly looked like it was going to be the most challenging period I had ever experienced in my career.
Fortunately, there has been one enormous blessing that has saved countless numbers of people during this period – technology!
During my school days, face-to-face online trumpet lessons, split-screen lockdown videos on YouTube, and live-streamed socially distanced workshops from a car park, would have been unthinkable. Yet in 2020, all this has saved many a worker over the last few months – including me.
Here is a selection of the ways freelance musicians like me have had to adapt swiftly and decisively since lockdown. I hope some of the adjustments I’ve made may be of use to you, whatever your industry!
1. One-to-One Zoom Lessons
Using the videoconferencing software Zoom (although others such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and Teams work just as well), I was able to quickly adapt my teaching program, and within a couple of weeks, I was up and running.
All you’ll need to benefit from this strategy is a laptop, tablet, or phone – although you must be sure to stay within the appropriate safeguarding regulations.
For music teachers, there are a number of negatives to this format (such as not being able to play together with your student, and not hearing their sound with perfect clarity), but there are some significant positives too, which include being able to share screens and sounds from your computer.
This means that individual tuition via Zoom will certainly be a viable alternative for me going forward, in circumstances where travel is prohibitive (such as being snowed in!)
2. Zoom Workshops With Larger Groups
I’ve also managed to deliver workshops on Zoom with up to 20 people, who each participate individually. This is far more limited in some ways, as the group is unable to play together – they all have to mute themselves, and play along with the workshop leader.
It also requires more preparation time, with backing tracks needing to be prepared well in advance, and music distributed with plenty of notice.
However, the use of backing tracks, and being able to share sound and screen, has great benefits too, like allowing the workshop attendees to experience playing along with professional backings, or to easily incorporate listening as part of the session.
3. Live-Streamed Workshops/Performances
I’ve also been part of a live-streamed performance using StreamYard. It went surprisingly well – there was no ‘live’ audience, but many joined in with us from their homes, and the feedback was good.
It is very strange performing with no audience, and this was one of the most difficult things to adapt to during the lockdown period. But again, this is something I would consider doing again, when travel or distance is a barrier.
4. Lockdown Composing & Video Production
One positive of lockdown has been the lack of travelling (my car has barely moved since March). This has meant there’s been more time for writing and arranging music, which has been very welcome indeed!
Lockdown has also created a new genre of music – the Lockdown YouTube Video. I for one jumped on the bandwagon, and although it’s been hard work to do, with lots of new skills to learn (such as video and audio editing), it’s also been a great experience, and our resulting videos have turned out rather well.
Here’s a link to one I made with several very talented friends: https://youtu.be/h9_-TTjkRSU
These are just a few of the ways in which our industry has adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic, and resulting lockdown.
It’s not been an easy ride, and we all miss playing together an awful lot, but I hope these strategies we’ve used to survive lockdown have been helpful to you, and have given you ideas on how you and your business can adapt and survive through difficult times.
Composer | Arranger | Trumpet & Flugelhorn | Educator