Due to COVID-19, large gatherings have come to a halt and Eau Claire musicians are taking the hit without venues or audiences.
Instead, live-streamed performances are the new direction musicians are taking to remain connected with their audience and passions.
Emily Wagener, treasurer of the Women’s Concert Chorale, said the transition to online instruction significantly impacts their ensemble’s dynamic.
The group was not able to perform any of their concerts for the spring semester and now there is not an accessible way to perform as a collective in the foreseeable future, she said.
“Transitioning to online classes and not seeing everyone four times a week has been hard on us,” Wagener said. “More than anything, we are here to continue to support each other and ensure that our members are doing well and continue to feel the community and love WoCo always has to give.”
Bryant Rahm, a third-year instrumental music education student and manager and performer for the band Polar Vortex, said the pandemic put the band on a new path because of the cancelation of upcoming and summer performances.
“Our main focus is the health of our bandmates and fans,” Rahm said. “While it is hard for us to come together and create music, we understand that once the pandemic passes, we will all come together again to start something magical.
The music community is built around collaboration and even though performers cannot physically meet, online resources make coming together still an option, Rahm said.
Wagener said some ensemble members from WoCo united to perform for their peers and, now, a Virtual Variety Show, where select portions of the semester’s pieces will be sung through a live stream.
“Every day during that week, we’re going to be posting videos of some of our ensemble members showing off their musical talents,” Wagener said. “Music is so incredibly powerful in its ability to bring people together and we are doing everything we can to continue to share our music.”
Because of potential setbacks the university may experience when returning to in-person instruction, WoCo aims to promote a donation pool to both their music program and also to the music department on campus, Wagener said.
“While we might not be able to make up for whatever may happen to our department, this fundraiser can not only bring WoCo back together but our choral community as a whole,” Wagener said.
The Virtual Variety Show will live stream daily talent from May 17 to May 23 on the Women’s Concert Chorale Facebook page. Audience members can also donate to support the university’s music programs through their GoFundMe page.
Rahm said Polar Vortex continues to experiment with different ways to perform while social distancing. The band is currently in the process of filming their songs and covers to share with their audience.
“We are going to start doing live streams on Twitch of us talking about what we’re doing during the Safer-At-Home order,” Rahm said. “We may do some live streaming events on Facebook, Instagram and Twitch in the future.”
Wagener said the ensemble’s motivation is facing a shift in focus from creating music to ensuring that the organization can provide a safe space for its members.
“Rather than focusing on creating music, our officer team has held weekly Zoom calls where we have different fun games, such as trivia, HeadsUp and more,” Wagener said. “By making sure we can continue to see each other over Zoom calls, checking in on each other throughout the week, we are able to keep our community together even if we can’t sing together.”
Rahm said the additional free time from the pandemic instilled motivation for each of the band members to expand on the sound of the band.
“With this amount of time we have, we are looking to release an album or EP by the end of the summer,” Rahm said. “I’m very impressed by everyone’s dedication to the band during these times and it shows me the amount of love that we have for each other.”
Wagener said WoCo takes inspiration from other musicians who perform their music through online platforms and values how powerful music can be when bringing people together around the world.
The ensemble is hopeful for the day when their community can come together again and support each other’s talents, she said.
“We saw it with the viral videos of people in Italy singing from their balconies at the start of everything and we continue to see it with all the videos that continue to be shared,” Wagener said. “We are so thankful for everyone who has supported us so far with our virtual variety show fundraiser and we are so excited to continue sharing our member’s incredible talents with the world.”
Rahm said despite the difficult situation the world faces, Polar Vortex and performing artists worldwide understand the value of coming together to create and enjoy music.
“We must continue to do the things that we love, not just as musicians, but as individuals,” Rahm said. “We all understand that there will be a day that we can come together and enjoy music — but until then — we must strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard and never quit what we love to do.”
Nelson can be reached at [email protected].