Solicited and Introduced by Mike Harcrow
This is assuredly one of the most bizarre seasons any of us has experienced. Many musicians have suffered untold losses because of the global pandemic. What is so encouraging through all of this, however, is the resourcefulness of friends and colleagues in stretching themselves to remain creative, to learn new skills to facilitate their creativity, and to proudly and expertly display these newly-acquired skills in inspiring projects (performed on balconies, in front yards, on YouTube, in social media outlets, etc.) while negotiating cancelled seasons, taking on other full- or part-time jobs, home-schooling children, watching savings disappear, and enduring a great host of other challenges.
While I know there are so many of you doing this very thing, I asked a few of our wonderful colleagues who are in some way reinventing themselves to share their thoughts and experiences by responding to any or all of the following prompts:
• How are you diversifying or bolstering your musical skill sets for the future due to current orchestra closures and performance cancellations?
• What secondary skills are you honing or exploiting?
• Have you taken on another job to maintain an income? If so, what?
• What hobbies or new interests—music-related or not—are generating income for you?
I am grateful to each of our contributors for giving us a little insight into their personal struggles and victories. Let us continue to learn from, inspire, and encourage one another.
Peace and health to you all, dear friends!
I am a freelance horn player in the Baltimore, Maryland region. For the last 20 years, the bulk of my income has come from playing assistant first with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I am also the hornist at the Hippodrome Theater and Principal Horn with the Lancaster (PA) Symphony. Most of my income through horn playing has stopped, due to the pandemic. The Baltimore Symphony and the Lancaster Symphony have provided some employment through virtual performances. Although performing has been my major focus and income, I started diversifying several years ago. I have been an adjunct horn instructor at Gettysburg College and doing brass instrument repair for several years. More recently, I became the librarian and personnel manager of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.
I have always been passionate about music as a career even with its ups and downs. So when I did branch out, I did so within the music field.
I have expanded my private teaching (all virtually) to students and adults, which complements my college teaching. I find that the increased teaching is helping me improve my playing and explore new methods of teaching with my students.
Another passion is brass repair. I’ve normally concentrated on cleaning and repairing horns, but have expanded to full restorations of other brass, including trumpets, trombones and antique horns.
I have arranged music for many years, but lately I have been using these skills to create pedagogical material for my students. I have learned (like everyone else) to teach and record solos and ensembles virtually. My knowledge of audio and video recording, and the proper tools to use has certainly increased! I am hoping to expand my web presence so as to increase my teaching and repair income.
I have some interesting new hobbies, which may or may not generate income, but I look forward to them. I have been learning a foreign language through a phone app and haven’t missed a day since I started in March. I have also enjoyed home projects, like rebuilding my shed from the ground up.
I endeavor to keep a positive, forward-looking attitude, which I believe is as important as anything else. I try to practice daily and enjoy virtual practice sessions with other colleagues once or twice a week.
I look forward to the day when we are all performing together as before, but until that happens, l will continue to expand my skills and remain open to new opportunities.
My name is Garrett Krohn, and I am a horn player based west of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I am working on my dissertation to complete my Doctorate of Musical Arts from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. This past summer I accepted a position at a large church in Big Lake, Minnesota as the Creative Arts Associate. The position has helped diversify my skills with technology as well as vocal technique. Part of my duties every week involves doing all the tech program for both of our campuses, which includes Ableton, lights program, LED wall, mainstage patches, etc. I also lead worship each week singing and playing guitar.
I also serve as the adjunct instructor of horn at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul where I teach once a week. Sometimes we are able to meet in person, and sometimes we meet via Zoom. I also have several private students that I meet with online.
Quarantine has pushed me musically in several directions. At work, it has forced us to adapt as a church to all online content, which means a lot of video editing for myself and the rest of the team. In my personal music pursuits, without any gigging opportunities, it has allowed me the time to pursue other musical interests. For me, this includes transcribing and practicing bass and exploring other hobbies, such as disc golf.
Dr. Olivier Huebscher
Professor of Brass, Mount Allison University, Sackville New Brunswick, Canada
I have found myself doing a lot more teaching, and a lot more teaching of much younger students as well. I have taught online lessons for 5 years so that aspect is not particularly new, but half of my online studio is now middle or elementary school horn players. There is a very different energy and skill set to teaching very young students as opposed to music majors with professional aspirations.
Secondary skills is a tough one. The online lesson aspect is part of it, and also trying to figure out ways to do distanced chamber music via recording. I have a woodwind quintet, Volante Winds, and being based in different countries has made live performance or rehearsal impossible. To combat that we are commissioning a new piece by Brian Nabors, which is designed to be premiered virtually. Basically, seeing what we can do with technology as a support instead of as a substitute guides us.
I have been lucky enough not to need an additional job with my University and private teaching workload. This is mostly due to having enough savings to tide over lost income. However, it is very tight and the loss of performance income is something that I know many people are struggling with. Teaching is something that only really works when there are performances to teach people for so that is not something that can sustain a profession.
I have tons of hobbies and new interests, but few with any money-generating potential. I have made a little bit of money working as a personal trainer, but that is only an option because New Brunswick gyms are open (with Covid precautions). Wish I had a more hopeful answer here, but I don’t think anyone is going to be paying me for my baking anytime soon!
In terms of diversifying and bolstering skill sets for the future due to current orchestra and performance cancellations, I have taken a number of strategies. This also applies to my performance/research interests, my teaching at UI and abroad, and my oversight of Cormont Music/Kendall Betts Horn Camp. It is my belief that all musicians should expose themselves and familiarize themselves with as much diverse music as possible. This includes Western Classical/Non-Classical Music, Non-Western Classical/Non-Classical Music, and Indigenous Music from around the world. This is dealing with the totality of world music, and likely it may not be possible to fully engage with everything. I propose then to think of it as a continual life-long learning endeavor. It is important to take the horn into every musical realm possible, even if there is no precedent for it. By engaging with the horn in areas that currently have no precedent, you are now establishing a precedentJ Also, it is important to access one’s own creative potential. This includes improvisation, composition, arranging, entrepreneurial thinking, etc., in your daily work. Again, this can be very incremental, but consistent engagement with these skills will allow musicians to become much more versatile, be more in touch with their own inner creative voices, and much more autonomous (having more agency for themselves in relation to their career) in their lives as musicians. At Cormont Music and the Kendall Betts Horn Camp, I have implemented a curriculum that embodies every element of what I deem necessary to be a successful and prepared musician in the 21st century and beyond:
- Focus on Fundamentals of Horn Playing (including ear training; theoretical harmonic/rhythmic training; basic elements of craft like phrasing, breathing, efficient tone production, articulation, dynamics, range, endurance, and so on)
- Historical Performance (Western Natural Horn, Horn in Non-Western cultures)
- Western (European) Classical Orchestral Horn Training and audition preparation
- Health and Wellness (Alexander Technique, Yoga, Mindfulness)
- Creativity (Improvisation, Composition, non-traditional approaches to performing-teaching-learning, and General Entrepreneurial Guidance)
- Solo Master Class Coaching with a World Class Collaborative Pianist
- Horn Chamber Music in the form of horn quartet and large horn ensemble playing
At Cormont, we have also adapted to the new online world by creating virtual content in the form of the “Online KBHC Experience” which probably many IHS members attended this past June. We also are offering monthly sessions we call “Horn Camp Connect” which have featured our diverse KBHC faculty along with interactive guided practice sessions. We are offering all of our online content as a gift to the music world during this difficult time, free of charge.
My teaching at UI reflects these values as well. If students can become familiar with and work these various elements into their daily lives, then they will be all the more enriched and versatile as musicians, ready to adapt to whatever situation arises and go after their dreams whatever they may be.
I have not really taken on new hobbies per se, but I have ramped up a couple things that I normally have more on the back burner in my daily life. I have focused on my physical fitness training in the form of triathlon training (partially to keep myself balanced during this very difficult time). I have begun reading more books, especially in areas I have not studied or explored before. I have delved into creative work like improvisation and composition much more than I have in the past. Most importantly, my wife and I have spent a lot more time with our children, helping them with school, playing with them, and just hanging out with them in ways we have never had the ability to do in the past. I have been cooking a lot more and have learned new recipes. I am also trying to learn Spanish. None of these things are directly resulting in income, but I am sure they might become useful in various ways into the future.
Tenor completing an Artist Diploma at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University (Columbus, GA)
Before this pandemic began, I accepted a contract to sing the role of “Don Ottavio” in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with the Prague Summer Nights summer program. I was amongst the majority of musicians whose performance plans were cancelled due to this pandemic, and since I could no longer travel and perform this role, I spent the summer educating myself in other areas to aid my performance skills. This included attending online voice pedagogy workshops, reading about a variety of topics including language study and investing in the stock market, and signing up for virtual masterclasses and concerts. I learned more about earning income as a private instructor and body awareness through online workshops and webinars. Using all the knowledge I acquired over the summer allowed me to begin building my own website and establish a private studio online. Though I missed out on a wonderful performance opportunity, I now have skills and knowledge which will further my career and set me up for future opportunities.
I have always had a strong interest in the Alexander Technique and vocal pedagogy, so this summer allowed me to delve deeper into those subjects. I was able to attend five weeks’ worth of an AT intensive which helped me to better understand the mechanics of my body. I worked in private coachings with professionals whose backgrounds included all areas of the arts community, and working with such a diverse group allowed me to build a new professional network while simultaneously learning about body awareness from a multitude of perspectives. Several voice pedagogy workshops and conferences were also cancelled due to COVID-19, but that opened opportunities for virtual conferences. This actually made these opportunities more accessible, so I was able to attend the Acoustic Vocal Pedagogy hosted by the New England Conservatory of Music, learning from some of the top of the field in the pedagogy world. I would never have been able to attend a workshop like this had it not moved online.
I am fortunate to receive a scholarship and stipend through my assistantship with my school, so I do not need a second job. This allows me to focus more on my education, but I recognize I am one of the fortunate few who can say this. I do some work with a local Episcopal church as a soloist, but aside from that and a small online studio, I rely mainly on my assistantship and some family assistance to support me.
What hobbies or new interests—music-related or not—are generating income for you?
As I mentioned earlier, I have been learning more about vocal pedagogy and teaching and have a virtual studio. Over the past few months, I have been able to teach several students and earn a small profit that way. I hope to expand this as I move away to pursue my master’s degree, wherever that ends up being. I have also been working with my school to put together performance videos to share publicly, so I hope to start generating income through virtual performances. When everything starts to open and normalcy returns, my expectation is the work I do during this pandemic to market myself and share performances will lead to live performance opportunities as well. Only time will tell, but I am thankful for the time to continue learning and expanding my skill sets. If you want more information about who I am and what I do, please feel free to check out my website, thaijohnsontenor.com, and enjoy this recent performance video.