As a parent one of the things you want to be able to do is to provide for your children. When a crisis, like the current one, happens that can become difficult. Now, I’m very fortunate in that, although my music job is currently on a hiatus with no definite return date as yet, my husband does have a secure job. We really do need two wages but at least we have one. However so many people in my profession have been hit by this crisis. For this reason I just really felt the need to write about it. I know it doesn’t quite fit in with my usual posts, but at the same time it’s very much a part of my life and, even at this stage, it’s a part of my little man’s life too. Music, and the performing arts in general, have always been, and will continue to be, very close to my heart. So to see the profession suffering in the way that it is due to Covid-19 is simply heart-breaking.
Packed theatres and performers interacting on stage – we all know that these things cannot happen for the foreseeable future. But what about the performers in the meantime? So many people – the majority – who work in the performing arts are not rich megastars living in huge mansions, they are ordinary working people like me. Many are self-employed. They have rent and mortgages to pay. Bills to pay. Food to put on the table. It’s not an easy industry in which to earn a living. Countless times I’ve thought I’d have been better off in a secure job, with a regular paycheque. Certainly from a financial point of view that would have been the better option! But the joy that my job has given me over the past eleven years is the reason that there are so many people trying to make a living in what is a very insecure profession.
Of course one day things will change. Theatres will be packed again. Performers will be able to interact again. Orchestras will be able to perform indoors sitting closer than two metres apart. Dancers will be able to hold hands. Actors will be able to act opposite each other. And we will appreciate this more than ever before. But until then, except for virtual performances, the performing arts world has to come to a standstill.
At the moment in Ireland, performers and indeed anyone who has lost all their work due to Covid-19, are entitled to apply for a special social welfare payment – the Covid-19 payment. When this eventually ends, as it can’t be sustained, they will then have to apply for a jobseekers payment. Although this will be of some help, in my opinion, it’s not a living wage.
But the problem is no one knows how long any of this will last. And when it is possible for live performance to restart, how many performance venues will still exist? Will musicians still be working as musicians or will they have found another form of employment out of necessity? And will music teaching have been devalued by the many free online lessons that are currently being offered? I know that in the future things will be different but how different? I don’t think anyone really knows. At the moment it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it feels like a very long tunnel.
However we cannot live in a world without live music. It’s not good for the soul. Humans need the arts. They are vital for our mental health. Imagine a world without music? No. As Friedrich Nietzsche said “Without music, life would be a mistake.” And I believe that is fundamentally true.
But the answer to the current crisis? Well at the moment I just don’t know.