Musicians and performers take their creativity online

By Brett Kelly

Artists, performers, and music instructors are using a wide variety of audio recording and teleconferencing equipment to stay connected with students and audiences./BRETT KELLY

An empty stage, deserted auditorium, or unused studio space can be a performer’s lament. Social distancing mandates have made many live performances a thing of the past. But some artists have found space for their creativity online.

Renate Rossol, a 30-year-old piano instructor and professional musician in Winnipeg, said some of her students were not able to continue their lessons online. But Rossol says she’s enjoyed learning a new skill — teaching remotely.

“I was able to adapt fairly quickly and easily with switching to online lessons,” said Rossol in an email to The Projector. “Technology is so advanced that downloading Zoom and getting all of my students set up was fairly easy.”

Like many artists and performers around the world, Rossol is dealing with a significant drop in her income. She said most of her live gigs have been cancelled or postponed to the end of June, and many of her international students have been forced home. For now, Rossol is recording and teaching from home and using internet-based services to collaborate with artists from around the world.

Along with members of Prairie Spirit United Church, where Rossol serves as the music director, she said they’re still able to create digital services for the congregation.

“[It’s been] a learning curve for many of us, but it’s important for the church worship leaders to remain connected with the congregation and create these offerings in these uncertain times,” she said.

Many performing groups have chosen to stay connected and create space for performers. Reba Terlson, a 30-year-old actor and playwright, hosted an online reading of her play One Date City. She said she’s glad to reach people who weren’t able to see One Date City during this past Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

“I know how tough getting art out is, and how it can be a financial burden to access art like plays if the cost is an issue,” said Terlson.

Terlson expects to see more art and plays inspired by physical distancing and self-isolation. She said many artists are finding new voices online.

“There is something to be said of doing it in front of a live audience, and that’s an energy I can’t re-create,” she said. “But I don’t think we should try at the moment.”

A group out of Saskatoon hosts a weekly event live on Facebook called Musical Mondays. Each week, performers prepare a musical theatre song as part of a song-cycle cabaret. 

For karaoke lovers, an online group created a 24/7 chatroom on Zoom featuring a web-based karaoke software. 

Performers and artists are continuing to strive for audience connection despite the pressures of losing paid gigs.

Rossol said she will always prefer in-person lessons but is making the best of teaching remotely.