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Musicians search for alternative venues

Staff writer

After playing at last year’s Chingawassa Days, Marion musician Dylan Delk was looking forward to this year’s event.

He planned to have songs recorded for promotion, but lost that opportunity when the annual affair was canceled.

“Then people could download it, listen to it, and whatnot,” he said. “With Chingawassa Days being canceled, we didn’t record. Other than that, I’m just waiting for things to open back up.”

Even though Kansas’ stay-home order was lessened by Gov. Laura Kelly last week, mass gatherings were still limited to 10 people.

Performing arts organizations are left searching for ways to offset lost money from shows they will no longer have, said opera singer Aaron Stepanek, a Hillsboro native and Tabor College alumnus now based in Wichita.

“That’s something a lot of organizations are dealing with right now,” he said. “How are we going to continue to survive and exist in a time when we lost half our season?”

Even events like Russell’s Ad Astra Music Festival, which Stepanek participates in most years, are trying to find other outlets for performances.

“They’re working on some virtual performances and working on how to have a festival and have art still created from a social distancing standpoint, and trying to figure out how they can continue to thrive and exist in this uncertain time.”

With no bars or concerts to play at, Delk now is mainly playing at a bonfire with a few friends, he said.

“I have my guitar with me when travelling around,” he said. “It’s just weird not planning for an event. There’s nothing on the calendar, that’s the weirdest part.”

While he can still use social media to promote his music, Delk doesn’t have a home studio.

“Do you want to record it on a phone and put it out there when it’s not as high quality, or do you want to wait until you have better access to stuff,” he said. “It definitely makes a difference.”

Having limited social interaction highlights the importance for musicians who have multiple skills, like singers who can play their own accompaniment, Stepanek said.

“You don’t get a masterpiece on Day One,” he said. “There are some trying times that you have to work through. People are able to see that at a time like this when they’re invited in to see the process.”

Stepanek’s most recent professional appearance was in Pirates of Penzance on Feb. 29 with Opera Kansas. He has kept performing by singing with Wichita’s Wesley Presbyterian Church, which streams its services online.

Not having a crowd means musicians can’t feed off the energy or atmosphere of an audience, Delk said.

“It’s all dependent where you’re at and your situation,” he said. “That goes for the music I play, too. I like to play to the crowd, play to the atmosphere.”

Not having a live gig also decreases external motivation to stay in practice, Stepanek said.

“It’s hard in a time like this,” he said. “I know I’m not the only musician or artist who is feeling this way, either. It’s really hard some days to want to work, and to want to practice.”

One effect from having so more online interaction is that there is increased discussion, within performing arts and beyond, as people adjust their lives, Stepanek said.

“If anything, I’d say something that’s grown from this is the dialogue that’s taking place in online forums,” he said. “Everybody is trying to figure this out together.”

Social distancing has highlighted the importance of the arts as sources of entertainment, and a need for money in those industries, Stepanek said.

“People find that what we rely on most at times like this is art,” he said.

And while recording quality might be lower at home than in a studio, there is an increased ability to get music out to the public, Delk said.

“My next step would be to get some stuff recorded,” he said. “It’s not that hard anymore to be independent and get some stuff on music apps.”

Delk is thinking about recording on more than a phone, though, with an eye cast toward when social activity eventually increases.

“I’m waiting for these places to start opening back up and playing bigger nights,” he said. “We’ll see when that will be. Even with these places opening up, they’re not going to allow a bunch of people in at one time right away. It’s just a waiting game.”

Last modified May 6, 2020

 

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