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Northwest musicians creatively cope with coronavirus outbreak

Marina Albero (right) and friends will stream a live concert from virus-ridden Seattle this Sunday night at 7. Left to Right: Adriana Giordano, Jacqueline Tabor, Chava Mirel
Marina Albero
Marina Albero (right) and friends will stream a live concert from virus-ridden Seattle this Sunday night at 7. Left to Right: Adriana Giordano, Jacqueline Tabor, Chava Mirel

Successful musicians often need to be creative hustlers to make a living as artists. With the COVID-19 outbreak leading to increasing concert cancellations, those hustling skills are being put to a serious test. One musician, pianist Marina Albero, is experimenting with a new way for musicians to connect with their audience — virtually.

Albero will host a live streaming concert on Facebook at 7 p.m. this Sunday, March 15, in what she's calling The Quarantine Sessions. This effort was born of distress, Albero says. She had a performance in Seattle canceled last week due to the outbreak. Then, "I had a concert at a medical conference in Barcelona for 2,000 people canceled, that's when the survival instinct started working."

In the days that followed those cancellations, Albero looked to Seattle's musical community. "I'm not the only one thinking about that," she says. 

Generous patrons and studio owner Phil Peterson stepped up to provide a studio space for the performance Sunday night. "The studio has 35 theater seats, so there's room for people who can sponsor and become producers (of the concert)," Albero told me. She says Peterson's help has been significant, "I had a really receptive person on the other end offering solutions."

She's not interested in handouts; Albero is thinking bigger than that. "I want to work! I want to do something that's win-win-win, support the musicians, the audience, the community."

From our community, Albero has received some support from Earshot Jazz, and rock-star patron Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam also has leant his support. "We're all here for each other, and that's one of the most beautiful things that human beings can do," Albero says.

Admission is free for this streaming concert Sunday, but collecting financial support from her virtual audience is essential. Albero has set up "tip tickets" through Brown Paper Tickets to accept sales in advance. During the performance, Albero will share her PayPal and Venmo accounts for additional support. "I'm not a software engineer, I'm using what I have," she says. Facebook is a natural and easy way to stream the concert, but she's open to other platforms should they arrive.

Albero says the music industry "needs to change and evolve. We are all aiming to be more in touch with our audience. And the fact that it's live gives it a lot of value." Though she says there's no substitute for seeing live music in person. "This is an emergency measure."

How will the series move on after its inaugural concert Sunday night? "I have no idea," Albero told me. She's talking with other musicians, noting that these sessions can originate from anywhere, with good quality audio the most important factor. "I'm just offering an idea. If it works....well, stay tuned!"

The Quarantine Sessions are just one proposition to help Northwest musicians make ends meet.

Trumpeter and educator Nate Omdal has started a GoFundMe page for Seattle music teachers. He's raised almost a quarter of his $5,000 goal in a couple days. "If you are a musician living and working in Seattle, the odds are you make 30%-50% of your income teaching lessons," he writes.

Popular Seattle writer and activist Ijeoma Oluo, sister of trumpeter and composer Ahamefule Oluo, has raised more than half of her $100,000 goal in a GoFundMe effort to support the greater Seattle arts community in about three days.

The Seattle Times is reporting on a coalition of philanthropic groups and major corporations working to raise $2 million to help people disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Drummer Max Holmberg has announced he'll be streaming a concert with jazz musicians who've lost work due to the virus response tonight (Friday) at 7:30 p.m.. It's free to enjoy, and contributions are welcomed virtually during the show.

There have also been discussions of a streaming "telethon" to help support musicians dealing with lost income, and surely several other efforts also are in development now. Stay tuned, as Albero says.

After Gov. Jay Inslee's announced ban on public gatherings of more than 250 people, the end of this crisis can't yet be determined. Our community has a lot of work to do. All of us at KNKX Public Radio are excited to keep finding ways to connect listeners to musicians in these difficult times. We all need each other more than ever.

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