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Fall 2020 Special: Purchase Musicians Adapt to the “new normal”

By Marcia Hunt

Marty Scott (right) playing during his recital on October 21st. Photo by Sebastian Bass.

With the pandemic keeping the country at a standstill, the musicians of Purchase College are finding new ways to adapt and return to performing.

Marty Scott, a junior jazz studies trombone major, has been making plans for his outdoor, socially-distant junior recital since before the school year even began.

“In March, I had more time on my hands to figure out what I was going to play,” he said. “Around August, I started asking faculty and staff if it was possible to do an outside recital. They got back to me and said that it could happen. Once I got to school, I started rehearsing in mid-September.

At his recital, which took place on Oct. 21 at the clock tower, there were many precautions to ensure he, his band, and the audience were safe.

“Everyone was being very safe,” he recalled, “Me and [Alexander Smith] had to be spaced out since obviously we don’t wear masks when we play. People were at least 30 feet away from the band. I used a mic with a cover when I spoke to the audience and people wore their masks. They took care of business and did what they had to do in a serious manner.”

Scott also plays in the Purchase Latin Jazz Orchestra and the Purchase Jazz Orchestra. Since the start of the school year, they’ve been rehearsing safely indoors, a feat possible by the implementation of plexiglass shields and air purifiers in their rehearsal space.

However, as the weather gets colder and outdoor events become less frequent, musicians are looking to more virtual means to substitute their recitals.

“Most of the people I know are trying to record their recitals,” he explained. “Some people may be livestreaming, but most people are trying to record albums.”

Scott is currently working on one of his friend’s recital albums and is hopeful that the trombone ensemble and jazz orchestras will put projects out before the end of November.

Yoshi T, a Purchase-based rap artist, has also been thinking about ways to make music now from the Purchase campus.

Yoshi T performing at a 1/25/20 Whiston’s show (via Jordan Meiland)

“I’m sort of scrambling around thinking about what to do next,” he said. “This is a chance for artists to figure out what is the best way to keep making music.”

Yoshi T headlined the online MixedFest YouTube event in late September. For the livestream, he and his friends Dylan Kahan and Elijah Judah recorded themselves playing a bombastic set in his apartment, complete with a fisheye lens effect. Kahan was featured on bass and programming and Judah has credits for production and programming.

But Yoshi T has found that in- person collaboration with his close friends has been working the best.

“The most truthful stuff comes from working with people you’re comfortable with,” he said. “I’m surrounded by too many talented people to not see them right now. But we’re being safe. I do miss normal life on campus, but we’re making the best out of it.”

Yoshi T is currently working on music, but is in no rush to put anything out.

“The world is on pause, so I have time to make my next move strong,” he said. “For now, I’m just content making music.”

While some musicians are looking to outdoor events, Emma Steen, a Purchase based singer/songwriter says that she thinks virtual performances are to become “the new normal.”

“In July, places in the city started holding these concerts and they were billed as being ‘completely safe, mask-only events’,” she explained. “I attended a couple of them at the start because I wanted to gig, and I missed playing at open mics.”

What she experienced was an “unsafe and disrespectful” event. Masked audience members passed around cigarettes, maskless passerby walked near the socially distant crowd, and, most unsettling, “the promoter pocketed the entire tip jar,” she said.

Steen fronts The Mother Shipton Prophets’ Guild, an experimental folk band. Recently, according to her and co-producer Andrew Breazna, the band has been “building itself back up.”

Most notably, they put out an album earlier this year titled Thieves Cannot Be True to Another.

Steen pictured in promotional photos for her livestreams (via Andrew Breazna)

“The only safe way to gig right now is online,” Steen stressed. “It’s hard because I don’t really know how to play to a computer screen. So much about being a performer is audience response, and it just isn’t the same. But we have to adapt now.”

One of the ways people have adapted is using Discord, a video chat platform, to have performances. According to Steen, using the platform allows for more audience

participation. On it,she’s seen virtual open mic events, which allow several people to play on the bill. For her own performances, Steen is looking into boosting her video quality and playing multiple instruments. As artists gain more traction online, they could even implement a virtual Venmo tip jar, said Steen.

“It’s hard because our primary source of income is gone,” she said. “It’s terrifying for younger artists. We just graduated and we’re trying to gig as much as possible, but we can’t. But it’s irresponsible to be having unsafe in-person events right now.”

In the meantime, the band is currently working on a new project, which will expand upon their experimental guitar techniques and medieval-inspired sound. They said it should be done by the end of the semester.

“Even though the pandemic has really been disenfranchising for me, I’ve been trying to get back on track,” she said.

Although the pandemic has put live music on pause, Purchase’s musicians will play on.

Scott said, “Everyone loves music. Music is one of the biggest inspirations in a person’s life. It’s really powerful and it brings people together. The greatest thing is when people can come together to make music and have a good time."



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