Guest post from New York saxophonist Daniel Bennett
We are winning and we don’t even know it yet.
Creative people fix problems. When your sink is leaking, you call a plumber. The plumber is not simply "optimistic" about the job. They are confident because they know how to fix things.
I was touring when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. My band had just wrapped album release concerts at the Blue Note in New York City and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London. I lost two months of gigs in the blink of an eye.
I teach at the Bloomingdale School of Music and the New York Jazz Academy in Times Square. I moved my entire teaching operation online within hours of the shutdown. I gave myself one hour to feel sad. Then I began fixing things.
Here are some tips:
1. Stop "numbering" each day in quarantine
We see it every five minutes on social media: "Day 25 and I'm still in bed!" OK, it's funny for a minute. We're all a little stir crazy. But at some point, you have to move on. You are not a caged animal. You are not defined by the walls of your apartment. Counting your days in quarantine will only add to your insanity.
We have one life on earth. Every minute counts! I have an older friend who receives chemotherapy treatments every day. He lives alone in Manhattan. He goes to the hospital every day to receive treatment. When he returns home, he is focused on living life to the fullest. He is not on social media complaining about his daily quarantine. If he can do it, we have no excuse!
2. You are not on "pause"
This has been heavily debated on social media. A recent New York Times headline read "Stop Trying to Be Productive." You can throw things at me, but I think this headline is garbage. What we need now is smart and compassionate productivity.
I have two children. My wife and I homeschool our kids now. We also assist with their online public school classes. It's my duty to take care of my family. It's also my responsibility to stay productive with my music work so that I can continue to provide for my family.
Hitting "pause" is not an option for me. I am booking new tours, tracking online sales, practicing, and composing music every day. I'm answering emails and keeping pace with social media. I am not binge-watching Netflix.
3. Stop talking about the virus
I teach over 30 jazz students every week. I have students all over the world. Most of my students are on lockdown. We almost never discuss the virus. We are too busy making music!
People want a sense of normalcy right now. My wife and I met with our tax guy via Skype yesterday. It was the most cathartic experience. Nobody mentioned the virus. We simply punched numbers into a calculator. It felt amazing!
4. Stop complaining
If you have the coronavirus, you have every right to complain. But if you are healthy, it's your duty to stay positive, help others & carry on the work of society. I've unfollowed dozens of "chronic complainers" on social media.
Ironically, these people were complaining before the pandemic, too. No surprise. People who complain during bad times, generally complain during the good times as well. A wise man once told me, "life is a big problem that needs to be fixed." Take a deep breath. We can do this!
5. Stop depressing your fans
I send weekly newsletters through my Bandzoogle website. My emails are clear and focused on positive news. People read enough CNN headlines. They know this is a "challenging time" in our world. They don't need to hear it from Artists every five minutes. The job of an artist is to lift people out of their sorrow. Your fans don't need to crawl into our depressed mind.
On a related note, your mental health is very important. Speak with friends or professional help during this time. I have sought prayer and counsel from people in my church during this time. We are all dealing with sorrow in some way. But our music can transcend this! Your audience needs your "musical joy" so much right now.
6. Check in with your music contacts
I video chat with bandmates and industry contacts every day. The first thing I do is reassure them that I have not forgotten them. I will hire them as soon as this is over. I give money to crowdfunding campaigns. So many ways to bless others!
People have this feeling that the world has "floated away." Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all still here and we are mobilized! Make digital connections right now. Everyone is eager to connect right now. When this pandemic is over, take those connections into the physical realm! We are not just killing time right now. We are prepping for a beautiful new world that awaits us.
7. Learn the technology
My parents mastered Zoom this week. They had no choice! On a technical note, Skype seems to have better audio than Zoom. But Zoom has less sound delay. My biggest complaint with Zoom is that it cancels certain sound frequencies. This means that certain notes almost sound "muted." This drives me nuts. So I teach most of my students on Skype now. Find what works!
My jazz students absolutely love online lessons. They seem more comfortable and focused. Some great concepts for online learning include ear training, rhythmic analysis, call-and-response, and listening exercises.
Students are also very comfortable playing through solo repertoire. They seem less inhibited when they play via Skype. On a related note, I've made a commitment to release a new song online every week.
8. Donate to those in need
Wanna be inspired? Donate to a crowdfunding campaign and watch the numbers go UP every time you refresh the page. People are so generous.
9. Share it!
Did something amazing happen in your online music world? Share it! Many of my jazz students are developing what I call "Skype Ears." Online learning has made their ears incredibly fine-tuned.
I recently posted a video about a 13-year-old student who memorized Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" in ten minutes. Absolutely amazing. But don't limit yourself to the internet. Share joy with your neighbors. Every night at 7pm, we open our windows in Manhattan and cheer for our medical community. Our love will spread faster than this virus. Share it!
This virus will die, but our cultural renaissance has just begun! We are re-calibrating our world right now. We will return to normal life with a deeper love for humanity. The music community is stronger than ever. We are witnessing the greatest outpouring of love throughout the world right now. Or did you chain yourself to the radiator?
New York saxophonist Daniel Bennett has been hailed as one of the most original and unpredictable musical voices of his generation. The Boston Globe describes Bennett's music as "a mix of jazz, folk, and minimalism." The Daniel Bennett Group has been featured in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, NPR, and the Village Voice. In addition to leading his own band, Daniel Bennett performs in Broadway and Off-Broadway theater productions in New York City.
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