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Musicians Share Concerns Amid Coronavirus Outbreak


Musicians are in a difficult place with the coronavirus outbreak, performances are being cancelled, and that means their income, like many gig workers, is taking a hit.

Ryan Egeler is a student employee at WCMU... he also studies orchestral music performance at CMU. He graduates in May and is hoping to find work as a musician, but he said even some entry level prospects aren’t looking great.

“Immediately post college one of the things that opens up for any musician is the freelance market, but unfortunately that market too is pretty difficult at the moment just because a lot of those gigs are at restaurants, or pubs, or bars, and those places aren’t operating at the moment,” said Egeler.

Ryan wants to eventually play in an orchestra, but he says it's a tough field to get into in the best of times. Coronavirus is only making things worse.

“This coronavirus shutdown is causing a lot of financial stress on these orchestras, a lot of these orchestras are operating on pretty tight budgets, there’s no fundraising money, there’s no money from tickets, there’s nothing happening. So I think this coronavirus right now is affecting a lot of orchestras and may even cause some to go bankrupt and shut down.” he said.

Ryan said it isn’t just the professional scene that is being disrupted, Egeler is still a student after all. He said the epidemic is taking away a lot of opportunities as a music student, everything from practicing with peers and professors, all the way up to the senior recitals and concerts. 

He said, “while I understand that these precautions are necessary and an important  part in maintaining our health and safety of our community, I have to be honest about the fact that I’m a bit disappointed because I’ll be graduating in may and this’ll be my last opportunity to participate in these ensembles.”

It isn’t just new professional musicians like Ryan who are facing hardship and losing opportunities, even musicians who have been at it for a while are having a tough time, like Sean Miller. Miller has been a musician all his life, but currently he is working on two projects: his solo act as well as a band called The Real Ingredients. He says the biggest disruption so far for him has been for his upcoming tour.

“Starting April 15th I was supposed to be heading off on a tour around lake Michigan. I’m just kind of sitting at home and waiting for the emails to come in for cancellations and reschedules and waiting this thing out like the rest of us,” said Miller.

Miller is also using his time at home to practice and hone his craft, maybe even add to his musical arsenal. He said he had “thought about buying a banjo, see if I could learn how to play banjo.”

Miller is in a fortunate position compared to some other local musicians, for Miller music isn’t his primary source of income, rather he works full time for the Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in their language department. He said they’ve been able to offer paid leave so far for the epidemic.

Miller said he’s seen artists coming together online, so he decided to join in. He said, “what I’m seeing is a lot of resilience and a lot of online communal efforts to help everyone out, so I did is that all the gigs that I had cancelled in March I’ve decided I would do a facebook live and instagram stream, but instead of taking the money for myself I decided I would donate to different relief funds so I’m just trying to help out where I can.”

Miller said he got a lot of help with his music over the years and that his live streaming to support other artists is his way to give back. He said with all the difficulties affecting local musicians it is more important now than ever to support them.

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