Quarantined Regards: Musicians Reflect on Changing Industry 

The pandemic has created a volatile environment for musicians, event producers and venues. KHOL spoke with local musicians to see how they are navigating.
Musician Sheena Dhamsania is rethinking the relationship she and her audience have with her music. (Courtesy Sofia Jaramillo)

by | Jun 6, 2020 | Culture

The pandemic has created a volatile environment for musicians, event producers and venues. Local summertime favorites, JacksonHoleLive and Music on Main canceled their summer series. These events often had local bands opening for the headlining national touring acts. 

Local musicians have adapted to the changing industry with online streaming sessions hosted by The Wort, The Center for the Arts and Dornan’s Hootenanny. Some though, like singer and bassist Sheena Dhamsania from the band Risky Livers, have struggled to find the creative fulfillment that comes from performing in front of a live audience. It’s been a total process of figuring out who is the music for and what it’s for,” she said.

Another local musician, Andy Calder, expressed a similar sentiment. “You know, there’s not a great deal of a market for a solo bass act, and I don’t really have one anyway. So I need people. 

But for others like Ben Musser, a.k.a. Benyaro, the quarantine became an opportunity to actually highlight his schtick, a solo act. I do this one man band thing, and I feel like sometimes that gets missed,” he said. “When I’m out on the road performing people seem to be partial to big bands and lots of people on stage. This quarantine situation has broken all of that down, highlighting the individual.”

The cancelations have also created the opportunity for artists to hone their skills. After all, for out of work musicians, there’s not much to do but practice, at least for the ones without children at home.

Musicians were reflective about this moment, whether that manifests in covers of artists who have passed away, like Bill Withers or John Prine, or the creation of new music. 

“As a musician our role is to, number one, bring joy and also reflection, and serve the times that are,” bassist Leif Routman of bands Inland Isle and Freda Felcher said. “Big change begets big art in the world and everyone is at home practicing. So I’m cautiously optimistic for all the cool work and cool talent and technique that people are going to come back to the world with.” 

 

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About Emily Cohen

Emily has served as executive director of KHOL since June 2019. She has a background in ecological design and urban planning and has worked as a teacher on the US-Mexico border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, as a policy wonk in Washington, DC and as a land use planner in Wyoming. She is an avid fiddler of Appalachian old-time music and other traditional folk styles.

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