Virtual Music Scene Enjoys Crescendo

By Jack Rubinger

As a musician (clarinet and  saxophonist), I miss the sessions, the camaraderie, the beers and the laughs that were such a part of my life prior to the pandemic. I thought it would be interesting to see what’s going on safely and virtually. It turns out that there are many creative outlets for musicians and students.

Adrian Martin teaches local musicians. “When I use the word musician, it’s not an exclusionary term. If somebody puts some sounds together and enjoys it, it’s music,” he said.

Martin said professionals are producing online shows from home, which work well for solo artists.

Their main income is through various tipping methods. YouTube has “superchat.” Most musicians post a PayPal or Venmo account and ask for donations. Some offer a link to their Patreon page to try to get donations. Backyard shows seemed popular earlier in the year, but the weather won’t be conducive for that again for a while.

Martin has also been leading groups in recording projects. The groups pick a song and he facilitates the learning by making a scratch track and letting his students overdub their parts. Then they have a Zoom meeting where they listen to the final product. See adrianmartinmusic.com.

Instructor/performer Andy D’Antonio also is busy. Most of his time is spent teaching piano and he’s created several recordings for voice students he accompanies, both for them to practice with and to use for them to record over.

He’s used the acappella app and iMovie (both Apple products) to do collaborations with other professional musicians as well as with students. See andrewdantonio.com.

Remotely recording an album with musician friends is totally doable and releasing an album during times like these can be a great way to connect with your audience using digital audio workstations (DAW).

While some professional-grade DAWs come with hefty price tags, it is possible to make great music with Garage Band (free for Mac users), Ableton Live Intro ($99), or Logic, which is an immensely capable recording studio for Mac’s that is relatively affordable at $199.

Add a basic audio interface and an inexpensive microphone and you are ready to start practicing your DIY song craft. Record your part and send the session over to your bandmates. Keep at it and you may end up with a cool song or maybe even an album.

Then there’s Artichoke Music’s enthusiastic, ebullient and energetic Executive Director Bob Howard.

Howard said their YouTube channel has shown renewed life since COVID-19 and now boasts more than 200 subscribers. He attributes this growth to a string of virtual events including virtual open mics they call Virtual Villages, that began June 5.

“We’ve dipped our toes in the water,” said Howard. “We’re always open to ideas from people.”

Some of these sessions have been themed, including one honoring Veterans Day. Coming up is a John Lennon memorial session, and a Winter Solstice scheduled for December 7.

All sessions are open to the public and interested jammers can sign up on Artichoke’s Facebook page or via artichokemusic.org.

Finally, we have Jennifer Wright, a SE Portland piano teacher and performer who enjoys doing music in unusual settings like parking garages, open fields and even public fountains.

She sees COVID-19 as an opportunity to reframe the music and Zoom is not the entire answer.

“It’s all about having an experience and being part of something by putting art into unexpected places and how we can reconnect as people,” she said. “Number one is making the audience feel safe and comfortable. That takes some planning.”

For example, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Keller Fountain, Wright performed with dancer/poet Akela Jaffi, aerialist Jordie Campbell and Daniel Brugh on synthesizer. Since the park is huge, there were no problems social distancing.

Performances like at the Keller Fountain help, but Wright said, “I miss sitting on the piano bench with my students, but we’re doing some fun things like a silly, black and white Halloween video we shared at an old folks home.” She said people need each other especially now during COVID-19. See jenniferwrightpianostudio.com.

Virtual Music Scene Enjoys Crescendo

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