Saturday I made the choice to be in a “high potential exposure” environment. So what does that mean now?

My first career was as a musician. I spent 15 years of life in a room mainly by myself practicing a bassoon. And I chose this monotony and isolation because I LOVE it. I love playing. I love the feel of the wood and metal under my fingers. I love reading something the first time and it sucking then putting in time and seeing it turn into art. I love the discipline I’ve learned and the expression through crafting my skills. But what I love most is performing. There is no more magical feeling that being transported away with a group of highly trained people and bringing an audience with you. It is electric. When you’re sitting there and you feel the vibration around you for a special chord progression it feeds your soul.

When Covid destroyed the world in March, it was at the start of “symphony season”. Since retiring from my professional musician career and I got lucky and now play in the Vic Ferrari Symphony On The Rocks. This is a group of really fabulous players that get together to play seriously awesome arrangements of classic rock with the legendary group Vic Ferrari. It is the most fun I’ve ever had on stage in my entire life. I LOVE doing these shows. We do about a dozen shows in March and then a few spread out the rest of the year. In the early stage of the pandemic our March scheduled was gutted and we didn’t play our season. At the time I was sad, but I was so busy trying to pivot Aerial Dance I didn’t have time to really notice how not playing effected me.

Fast forward to August. I’m hanging on by a tread. I’m past tired. I’m past stressed. I’m so depressed I have to set my alarm early to allow enough pep-talk time to then be able to function the rest of my day. And I’m angry. I am so flipping angry at the politics ruining so much blood sweat and tears of entrepreneurs. The stress of small business ownership in this time is frankly not something anyone can understand unless they are living it. If you know a small business owner, be extra kind, we need it. We are holding the world together with zero support from anyone “in charge”. We are making horribly difficult decisions with no guidance and trying to keep our people safe and employed. It is brutal. So when Vic Ferrari announced that they were going to do a Symphony Show outside on August 15 my initial reaction was: I can’t play, I can’t take the chance of getting Covid, Aerial Dance comes first.

And I’m so freaking thankful that somewhere in my head a little voice said “you matter too”.

I made the choice to play because my soul needed to feel something besides anxiety, fear, and anger. I also wanted to play to see my friends in that community, those guys are like uncles to me and the symphony has become family over the years and I have been isolating for the sake of my company and I’m so freaking lonely. I wanted to play because I LOVE playing and I trained YEARS for this. I wanted to play because I had the opportunity to when so many of my artist friends are still out of work. I wanted to play because I wanted a paycheck. I wanted to play because I wanted to keep my job with the group in the future. I wanted to play. That is what it truly came down to. So I made the decision to go to a “high potential exposure” environment knowing there could be consequences. I chose to play knowing some people would be angry I did. In this time of “everyone policing everyone” I know I will get emails from students asking me if it is safe for them to come to the studio because I performed.

I chose to play because I needed to, mental health maters, and because I also care about my company and community, I took precautions. I wore a mask, even though it was outdoors, everywhere I went except when my bassoon was in my hands. A number of the musicians were doing the same thing and there was a lot of respect keeping distance and not touching people with masks. I’m not going to lie, it sucks. Touch is one of my love languages so I always touch the people I care about so it sucks to not high five Kevin after we rocked something. I miss my hugs from Wayne, Russ and Holly. But that was a sacrifice I was willing to make to still be there. And I have to say everyone was so respectful so that was great.

My chair

Vic Ferrari treats their people well. I’ve played in a LOT of groups, and I have never been treated better. They pay us at the level our experience deserves; they feed us every show. This is a group of guys that are truly good humans and they care about the community and performers. And this was extremely evident in how they set up the stage. They added 12 ft on each side of the stage, 24 feet in total, so we could spread out. Where we normally have three rows, we had two so there was more space between rows. I have never had that much space on a stage in my life. Kevin, clarinet extraordinaire who I sit next to and adore, was over an arms length away. He’s normally about 6 inches from me. I had no one to my right for 10 feet. I had no one behind me. Chad was in front of me but (unlike usual) my bassoon was not up his butt! (no joke, I can normally hit him with my bassoon with minimal effort). Saturday night, it was down right spacious on stage!

The show was amazing. The group sounded great. The fans were awesome. For a few hours I didn’t feel worry, pain, fear or anger. I felt joy. It had been so long I had forgotten what it felt like. I smiled. Real smiles, even if you couldn’t see them under my mask. I felt light. And after the show I went home and slept for 7 hours. Magic. Music is healing magic.

I wanted to stay and dance the “Spicy Thai Band” that played after, but I didn’t. I had accepted the level of exposure to perform but also knew that there were some situations I still couldn’t justify being in. I hope I get to dance to them soon, they were fabulous. But those are choices. We all have to make choices in this time that align with our goals.

And we have to take the precautions after. I’m now taking my temperature twice a day. I’m also not going to the studio when anyone is there until enough time has passed and I have a negative covid test. When I am at the studio alone, I will wear a mask and wipe down all surfaces I touch. And I will limit the amount of time I am at the studio in general until time and test have happened. I feel really comfortable with what happened at the show and don’t feel I actually had any risk, but this isn’t about how I feel or what I think. It is about protecting those I care about by being smart after any choice that may increase potential exposure. So now I will protect my company, staff, students and parents from my choice to perform. I will isolate as much as possible and keep a record of where I go and who I see, just in case…because I want to be a responsible community member, but I also need to live.

I’m so grateful last night I got to live and am totally willing to do what I need to now to have the opportunity again in the future. Choices are more powerful than ever in this time of fear. Remember to feed your soul and take the precautions to protect those that matter to you.