Service can take many forms. This card from the Inspiration for Violinists card deck suggests playing for nursing home residents and veterans. Both are great ideas but there is so much more we can do with our music and, on more than one day a year.
As a young conservatory student, there were many times when I participated in performances dedicated to causes such as raising money for AIDS research. At that point in my life, I was looking to play pretty much all of the time. The altruistic part of these performances was somewhat lost on me. I participated for the opportunity to perform, meet other musicians, and learn new repertoire. Then, a few years later, a good friend asked me to “donate my services” to play in a chamber music concert.
I agreed to play the concert because I liked the other musicians and thought it would be a fun concert. I found out at the dress rehearsal that the program was a fundraiser for a local food bank. I was caught off guard by the reason for this concert but I was impressed with my friend’s inspiration to connect her music with fundraising for a food bank. It was a fun concert with a huge audience and a lot of money was raised.
There are many avenues available for offering support. I just watched My Octopus Teacher on this night when it feels too cold to go outside. I highly recommend this movie by filmmaker Craig Foster who befriends an octopus in a kelp forest off the coast of South Africa. I found the evolution of the human-mollusk relationship to be very moving. I was also impressed that as a result of making this film, Foster created the Sea Change Project.
Because of his love of the wild in the ocean, Foster started an organization along with other divers that is dedicated to protecting South African marine life. This organization is directed by individuals with a lot of knowledge of South Africa’s coastal environment which enables them to target a very specific need. In a similar way to divers enlightening the plight of an undersea world, the pandemic has shined a light on the plight of musicians and performing arts organizations.
A group of Boston area musicians along with music managers and individuals who work in the financial industry, founded New England Musicians Relief Fund, nemrf.org, in 2020 as a result of the shutdown of concert halls and performing organizations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Amazingly, many musicians continue to share their music in any way possible including raising money for their performing organizations and even raising money for their colleagues. The lack of safety net for free-lance musicians in particular, has become abundantly apparent.
Many musicians live paycheck to paycheck. No one would ever have guessed that things could get this bad. When finally it seemed like concerts were being scheduled earlier this fall, we were hit with the delta and omicron variants. Concerts are being cancelled and meanwhile, musicians are dealing with their own health issues. After all, most free-lance musicians are self-employed with either little health insurance coverage or none at all.
If you are a musician who has been impacted financially by loss of work due to the pandemic, I would encourage you to apply for a grant through the NEMRF, https://www.nemrf.org/apply. I would also encourage you to continue playing for those who love your music and for those who are house-bound. Our seniors have to stay home. Individuals with compromised immunity have to stay home. There are also people experiencing mental health issues due to the pandemic who are having to stay home.
What are you doing for this Martin Luther King, Jr. day of service? I will be planning a long awaited-for school concert and participating in a fundraiser for leukemia research. Contribute to a charitable organization with your time and/or your money, or form your own advocacy foundation based on a need that has captured your awareness.