I would like to talk about the situation with musicians being silenced throughout this pandemic. For the past month, trying to get advice and any sign of leadership to simply get approval to perform/practice music outside has resulted in brick walls.
Some of us musicians are sincerely trying to figure out what to do, how to follow the health guidelines and still play music because it’s who we are and what we do. Instead, musicians are being forced to deal with political and community figures too lazy and too scared to provide any real leadership. Instead of focusing on what is possible, the answer is to just slam the door shut. Meanwhile, all we really hear about are the people ruining it for all of us.
For example, I live in Marysville. I received word from the Union County Health Department that five friends are not allowed to randomly play music outside, unannounced. Despite no tickets being sold for an unscheduled practice, it’s deemed a “concert” under the lazy blanket term of concerts. We found an alternative way to practice, but the point remains.
A double-standard exists. The same officials who canceled live music, remain too scared to crack down on unsafe gatherings conducted by church groups, teen parties and white nationalist groups. While I can’t play music outside, apparently it’s fine if a Blue Lives Matter rally packs the Marysville uptown. Nary a mask in sight, airplanes in the air promoting it and police supporting it.
No one is looking to draw crowds right now. We are just trying to remain artists and musicians. The fact is, safe concerts are being performed all across the state, which adhere well to health guidelines. Look to Natalie’s, Rockmill Brewery, mobile concerts, Landgrant Brewery and even the upcoming 934 Fest as examples of leadership. Live music is still possible and it should not be silenced just because our leaders are too scared to make a decision.
For many of us, being asked to stop playing music is not only financially crippling, destroying our live venue establishments, and hitting our local economy, it’s also affecting people emotionally. I know of a female artist in Columbus who recently tried to commit suicide. Fortunately, she is still with us. That is one person too many, as far as I’m concerned.
The role of artists in society is to speak up for people and ideals, giving them a platform. Now, we must speak up on behalf of artists. Music and art offer people a chance to deal with their feelings; to manage their anxiety and depression. Music and art offer opportunities for healing during a time when we all need it the most.
So, my advice to musicians: Stop asking for permission. Go outside and play music anyway. Rock and roll is not about being silent. It’s about speaking up. Where do free speech and art collide? Let’s find out.