Prelude: This scenario is rooted in a philosophical belief in the importance of relationships and acts of generosity (rather than transactions) as the foundational orientation that will allow an enterprising musician to thrive in this new reality. After all, everything is based on relationships.
During the pandemic, there are still opportunities for musicians to create an income stream through performing, but now the platforms for performing “live” music are different: FaceTime, Zoom, driveways, sidewalks, and backyards.
In your immediate vicinity, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of isolated individuals. In the coming months, everyday life will be going on around them as they strive to stay safe by adhering to strict social isolation guidelines, especially if they have an underlying vulnerability.
Meanwhile, life continues. This includes birthdays and anniversaries, among any number of reasons why people may wish to gather and share a meaningful experience together. And if they can’t, a musical performance, specifically created to connect with, recognize, or honor an individual, may provide something of significant value and affirmation.
How might this work?
In Sun Valley, for instance, Deborah has a local network through her daughter’s school. Each of the other families that she is connected to has their own birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate, along with parents (grandparents), friends, and neighbors who they care about.
Deborah offers to play ten minutes of Bach on her violin for her friend’s neighbor who is elderly and isolated. Her friend connects her with the neighbor, and they set up an appointment. One sunny afternoon, Deborah drives over to the neighbor’s home and sets up her music stand on the driveway, while the neighbor sits on the front steps, twenty feet away (and Deborah’s friend peers over the hedge—or whatever people use as the dividing line between properties in Sun Valley).
Deborah chats with the neighbor, acknowledging the unusual situation, asking her a little bit about her life, her family, her musical interests (if any), how long she’s lived in Sun Valley, etc. [See Nina Simon’s The Art of Relevance for why this kind of empathic connection is important to establish before engaging in the artistic experience.]
Next, Deborah chooses from several pieces of music that she has prepared, responding, in part, to what she has learned about this individual audience member. Of course, any piece of music can be relevant simply by being offered up as a beautiful aesthetic gift, but there is also the possibility of forging a more specific connection now that Deborah knows something about the individual who is listening.
Deborah asks her friend (who is still peering over the hedge) to take a photo with her iPhone that, with permission, Deborah and her friend can share on social media.
After performing for the neighborhood and exchanging a few pleasantries, Deborah returns home. Meanwhile, the neighbor is on the phone with her personal network telling them about the beautiful, uplifting experience that she was privileged to enjoy—just for her!—that afternoon.
The next day, Deborah receives two requests from people she doesn’t know (friends of friends), asking if she could do the same thing for a grandfather, an aunt, a wedding anniversary, a neighbor who is living alone…
Deborah decides to send the photo and a short message out to her person network, including all of the families in her daughter’s school that she has gotten to know in recent years. It might read something like this:
Your move, Deborah.
* Alternatively, should this become something that catches on and there is increasing demand for your services, asking for a voluntary contribution, for those who are able, to your personal bank account by PayPal or Venmo is the next step. I recommend that you 1. begin by offering this service freely in order to make clear that it is about the mission (not the money) and then 2. build a “suggested” fee structure once you have gotten started and begin to see that there are going to be continued requests for performances.
A really nice thing to be able to do would be to always offer the option of a freely given performance, should someone need music who can’t afford to make a donation. Perhaps online performances can remain available for free, if necessary, while an in-person visit—clearly the more labor and time-intensive version—has the expectation of a fee.
Sharing student project documentation and, more recently, my own.