While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives, musicians who earn their livelihood from playing gigs have been among the most challenged by the restrictions. Bars, restaurants and musical venues across the midstate have stuttered their doors and canceled live music.
So what have gigging musicians been doing over the last few months to sustain themselves and keep their creative juices flowing?
Many have taken to the internet, where a broad range of wonderful online concerts are now available. Musicians have produced concerts using platforms like Facebook and YouTube Live, and arts organizations like the Central Pennsylvania Hall of Fame and the Susquehanna Folk Music Society have held online concerts featuring local musicians. The Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania even hosts a “virtual blues jam” every Thursday night.
Carlisle-based guitarist Paul Wegmann has taken a different path. Although performing is his first love, he is also a skilled guitar teacher. When the pandemic hit and regular gigs with the band John Terlazzo and Voices in the Hall dried up, he put his energy into migrating his large private guitar studio online. Wegmann said that taking an instrument lesson virtually has its challenges, but, by and large, his students were happy to be able to continue.
“I’m pleased with how the lessons are going, but it’s a very different experience because we are not able to play together,” he said. “It’s a little more constrained, and I have to do a lot more explaining since we are not able to interact in the same way musically.”
Wegmann conducts the lessons on Zoom, which has turned out to be a great fit due to the platform’s ability to record both the audio and the visual.
“I can demo the exercise for them, and they can start and stop and create a nice edited series of examples to use for practice,” he said.
He also uses a digital tablet as an aid during the lesson.
“The tablet gives me the ability to write in real time and also screen share,” he said. “After the lesson, I can e-mail them a copy of what we have discussed.”
Wegmann says that he hadn’t fully appreciated the degree to which physical presence is important until it was missing.
“I really look forward to the day that I can get back to in-person teaching,” he said. “But, right now, I’m trying to concentrate on the possibilities of virtual instruction rather than the limits.”
Wegmann broadcasts his lessons from Natural Music Studios, a space that he describes as a “full-service production facility and intimate music workshop.” He founded the studio as a “boutique operation” where instruction is multi-faceted.
“Students basically come to learn from someone who is just in their own laboratory, doing their work,” he said. “They become my apprentice as they go through the process of learning to play their instrument, composing songs and recording.”
Wegmann studied recording engineering and production management at Berklee College of Music in Boston and, since, has worked as a sound engineer, programmer, performer and songwriter in many studios in Boston, New York and New Jersey, doing everything from audio production to theater, museum installations and soundtracks. He has also played in bands performing numerous genres such as rock, jazz, R&B, rap and world music.
He doesn’t follow a predetermined pedagogy but instead tailors his lessons to each student.
“I think of it as a very individualized journey,” he said. “We are just musicians learning and playing music together.”
For more information on Paul Wegmann and Natural Music Studios, visit www.paulwegmann.com.