Trying to pull something positive out of the times we are living in, I suppose I could say I’m being forced to be more flexible! I’m a control freak in so many ways (like all of them, perhaps?) and Covid Times do not allow me to be that way.

So let me ramble about how I’ve dealt with the times we are living in, concerning my career.

When Covid first hit our area we were shut down completely. My last playing job back then was Il Trovatore with Opera San Jose. The final performance was March 1, 2020. I continued to teach in my home studio for a very short time, but then I stopped doing even that.

Remember those initial days? We didn’t really even go outside! Mail was left to sit in the box, or brought inside to wait to be opened for a week or so, in case the virus was transmitted via objects like mail. We washed all of our ordered and delivered groceries. I learned how to teach students via Google Hangout, Facetime or Zoom. (We eventually moved fully to Zoom, and thankfully it has improved over time and now it’s usually rather comfortable to teach that way, although in-person lessons are a vast improvement.) I thought I’d get the house really clean and even wash my windows (nope!). But we cooked a lot. We ate well (I’m married to an incredible cook). And I was thankful, and continue to be, that I am married to someone who is easy to hunker down with.

Slowly we learned that we were pretty safe doing some things. I went out for my daily walks (at first wearing a mask, later having one around my neck in case I encountered others). The walks were pretty amazing: I could walk down our busiest street and it was empty!

Slowly some arts groups learned how to stream things for those of us who were desperate to “attend” concerts. In particular I got hooked on the “Live from London” series, put on by the VOCES8 Foundation. (If you can support them I recommend that. VOCES8 is my absolute favorite vocal group, but they featured other groups as well in their series.) Opera San Jose also featured streaming videos and did quite a good job. Eventually I was hired to record for one of them, doing Mozart & Salieri in their newly created space. THAT, on August 17,18, and 19, 2021 was my first time back to work. Yes, it had been over a year since I’d had any work performing. Symphony Silicon Valley (soon to be renamed Symphony San Jose) started up on August 14 with two outdoor concerts, and we were back on stage September 29 through October 3. That was an interesting concert to begin with, as I had the rather important English horn solo in Dvorak’s “New World” symphony (The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”, Op. 95, B. 178).

Since that time I’ve done a symphony set, followed by the final Harry Potter movie with symphony, and yet another symphony set. That’s not a lot of work for a musician. My last day of symphony was December 5. Since then? Nothing. But work begins again on January 19, when we do the American Masters set with Symphony.

Why do I write all this? Partly because I’m trying to put together “My Life under Covid’s Reign” so I can remember how things went. Partly so my students and anyone else who is interested will see how this has hit the performing arts. I’m not even sure how much work I lost: when we first shut down I was deleting the concerts as they went by on my calendar. I know I lost a lot. A full year of opera and symphony, plus whatever was scheduled from March 2020 to the end of that season (we end our seasons around June). It was obviously a financial drain, and I’m forever grateful to my students for sticking with lessons … and even attending more than usual since they didn’t have school/sports conflicts for a time. While I lost a significant amount of income, I feel for my colleagues who don’t teach, and who performed SO much more than I did in the Before Times. Some retired. Some went out and searched for new jobs, but many were living on unemployment for a long while. Filing for unemployment is VERY difficult. I tried. I cried. I gave up! (I’m grateful that I never really needed it … again, thanks to my students!)

Now we are back to work, but it’s not normal. We are tested. We are masked when possible (the conductor, strings, percussion, and all backstage folks, along with the audience are always masked, and winds and brass are supposed to mask up when not playing). We are all required to be fully vaccinated. And we all still wonder if this is the day we catch the dreaded beast. Or perhaps it’s the day we are, again, shut down completely.

I could go on, but my brain is tired. (I used to blame reeds. I think today I’ll blame Covid! Certainly I will blame only myself for all the typos I’m sure exist here, though.)

Stay well. Stay safe. Get those boosters!