We’re at a forced crossroad. The precarious cultural world we lived in pre-Corona will not exist in the same form after 2020. For artists, ‘Going back to normal’ isn’t really going to cut it. And whether we want to or not or not, we’re going to have to change our habits. There is no more time for head-in-the-sand.
I’m a performer and I’m a teacher. I really have two halves that cannot succeed without each other: performing without thinking pedagogically feels shallow and false; teaching without performing becomes superfluous and dry. Both of my halves are nurtured by each other.
At times during the lockdown I have felt my own professional redundancy: cancelled performances, digital lessons limited in so many ways and a diary that hasn’t been so empty for a decade. As a freelancer I question what my diary will look like once concert spaces start to open up. And more importantly, how do I WANT that diary to look post-2020? Filling up with the same ‘normal’ concert engagements for the same sort of audiences seems a narrow, almost selfish wish.
My empty diary has led my mind to ask: what was the point of all that? I want to play and connect with other musicians and audiences but post-2020 connections will be different.
When the performance engagements fall away for the indefinite future, I also notice that my motivation to teach flails. What’s the point of the traditional violin lesson when there is no culture to play in? Art needs context and community to thrive. My teaching-half asks ‘how can I continue to pretend that pre-Corona learning is relevant post-2020? How can I pretend that nothing has changed?’.
I have started asking older students to come up with their own projects in their own communities as a way of keeping the spark (and the practice) alive. At a tertiary level I’m asking students to think of fresh ways to be examined given live exams are not really possible. Every school holidays I aim to ignite a new pedagogical flame that will sustain myself and my younger students until the next holiday. All these things are ways that I try to keep myself and my students nourished and in flow. But it’s exhausting.
Making music privately at home and within Corona parameters has taken on a bitter-sweet taste. There is musical energy in the moment: it’s bliss and I can almost forget the world. But afterwards there is a dead-end. A no-through road.
Again, I feel as though we’re at a crossroad that must be addressed very creatively – that’s what artists should be good at after all, right?
It’s easy to get distracted from all this as summer finally arrives. Many of us are having to just deal with present challenges and understandably don’t have energy to think much further than semester break. I am lucky enough to have a partner who earns well and we are financially stable – that’s a rare thing for a freelancer! We are also expecting a baby at the end of the year so I feel an urgency to know how the world will look after I become a mother. Again: crossroads.
I’m writing this because I think there might be others who think similarly to me. Rather than dwelling on what’s not working now, I would love conversation about what could come afterwards. Maybe we can fill the empty diaries with innovation in the new decade. Some sort of hybrid artistic structure that brings the relevance back in to performance, music teaching and learning. Or music teaching that FINALLY addresses future prospects for our students.