Sitting here at my keyboard on the last day of an incredible year, it would be easy to churn out a few hundred words on what a resilient bunch us musicians are; how we’ve made the best of a bad situation. How we have adapted to unprecedented circumstances and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges whilst laying the framework for the brave new world of a post-pandemic music industry. But it’s not as simple as that, is it…
In my blogs I normally focus on my work with my Blast Off Brass workshops and Salford University, and I have been as guilty as the next blogger of trying my hardest to put a positive spin on the past year. That’s not to say that there haven’t been many positives that have fallen out of the Covid crisis, but let’s be honest – it’s not been ideal, has it?
I suppose we will have to wait for this all to die down and for things to get back to ‘normal’ before we can truly dissect the toll this has taken on our industry, and there will be many, many sad individual stories we will hear over the coming months. There are, however, green shoots of hope to be seen. Although an exodus from the music industry is inevitable, many people have re-aligned their life-goals over the past year; I know I certainly have. Worst case scenario going forward: music may never again offer the employment opportunities it has in the past. Studying for GCSEs, A Levels and degrees in music may seem (even more) frivolous in a world crying out for doctors, nurses, online delivery drivers, vaccinators, Amazon warehouse workers, IT boffins, epidemiologists, fruit pickers and farmers, but for many people the sheer joy of music has been a blessing, and in some cases a life-saver.
Humans have always loved music, and whether this infatuation serves any evolutionary sense has been debated for centuries, but the irrevocable fact remains – we do! The act of listening to music releases dopamine, and this makes us happy. Music is part of what makes us human, and despite mucho Googling, I cannot find reference to the world’s first professional musician. Music was done for pleasure, to make us and those around us happy.
At some point the human race commercialised it, monetised it, as we have with every other commodity on the planet. The Pandemic has, in part, made many of us remember what drew us to music in the first place; maybe that’s where our focus should be going forward, and not on squeezing every last penny we can out of it. Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not being flippant about the thousands of careers and livelihoods that have and will suffer over this. Like many of you, I will still need to earn a living from music, hopefully for many more years to come; I can’t (and don’t want to) do anything else! I’m talking about the future, our next generation of musicians – our children.
As soon as I am able I will be re-starting my Blast Off Brass workshops, and I have several that I received payment for before Lockdown which will be honoured first. Over the past few months I have been re-working my format to incorporate the new pBugle alongside the pBuzz, but I had no intention to alter the overarching ‘message’ I was conveying. A year ago, a large part of my ‘spiel’ to the kids was about the fantastic career I have had in music; the travel, the celebrities, the MONEY! I used to drive away thinking: “If just one of those kids makes a career in music, I’ve done my job.”
2020 has made many of us re-evaluate our relationship with music; the JOY and the FUN is what drew us to it in the first place, not the money. I hope I never drive away from a school with that thought in my head ever again.