March 2020: COVID-19 shutdown. Lyric Opera season: over. Ring cycle: not happening. Education system: all online. Santa Fe Opera Festival season: canceled. And so 2020 went: life ground to a halt.
Like so many musicians during 2020, I have experienced a loss of work, artistic outlets, social engagements, along with waning motivation and fragile mental health. Early on in the pandemic, I became addicted to books and podcasts on performance psychology, mindfulness, and training for excellence. One podcast, in particular, posed what for me became a profound transformative question. Which feeling would shape my thinking and lifestyle choices thereafter: fear of failure, fear of doing nothing, or fear of success? I then entered into an incredibly fruitful and creative period by modifying social media consumption, music-making and practice, as well as general daily life habits. The renewed energy from these changes also precipitated a shift in my teaching strategies and online musical presence, even with no return to life as a performer on the horizon.
I've increased my online teaching and outreach footprint with my own trombone studio at DePaul University, as well as with numerous brass students around the country. I began teaching a weekly masterclass for a different low brass music studio in the U.S., in exchange for each studio's teacher leading a class with my own students. I started weekly warmup and brass fundamentals classes for my students both of which have grown to include other students from around the country. To compliment my own personal practice of mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude, I also offered an online class on performance focus through mindfulness, something I'm hoping to do more of in the months ahead.
My most comprehensive and current project is combining all of these elements as I rebuild my professional website to include playing demonstrations, brass pedagogy concepts, and performance focus videos, along with brass warmup exercises and various handouts. I will also include multitrack recordings of various chamber works while playing all of the individual parts myself. Life feels nearly as busy as it does during a typically frenetic Lyric/teaching season, minus all of the time commuting of course! Here's hoping that we all can experience some form of personal, musical, and spiritual growth during what's left of the pandemic. Let's have fun making lemonade from lemons---carpe diem!!