Online School for Music

“Freelance Classical Musicians are Performing Without a Net during Coronavirus Crisis” in The Morning Call featuring CMS teacher, Linda Kistler.

“Concert cancellations related to the COVID-19 coronavirus are leaving scores of classical musicians with less work or no work in the coming weeks or longer. It is a devastating financial blow to a group of performing artists, who, in many cases, are already living hand-to-mouth.

Event cancellations are affecting performers in many fields, but are especially catastrophic to classical players who derive the bulk of their income from a mix of seasonal contracts and pickup gigs. The vast majority of this work is “pay for service” — that is, when musicians don’t play, they don’t get paid.

Violinist Linda Kistler, a regular performer with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, the Bethlehem Bach Festival Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Sinfonia, and other groups, estimates she’s already lost nearly 10% of her yearly income in canceled engagements.

“I’m so sad about the situation. I just can’t imagine not having the opportunity to get together with colleagues and make music — it’s just heartbreaking to me,” she says.

Like many freelance musicians, with the loss of performing jobs, Kistler now depends on income from her teaching responsibilities. She maintains a private teaching studio at her home and is on the faculty of Moravian College and Allentown’s Community Music School.

“Both CMS and Moravian have mandated that I can’t do face-to-face lessons with my students. With one of my CMS students I’ve recently tried a video conferencing app called Google Meet,” she says. “That worked OK, with limitations — it’s difficult to play together with someone where I can’t look over their shoulder to see their music.”

Kistler still has 4 or 5 students who come to her home. “That’s also very limited. I have to wipe down all the doorknobs and stuff in between lessons, make the students wash their hands before lessons, and try to stay six feet away,” she says. “But even then, I can’t see their music.”

Kistler still practices her usual exercises to remain musically in shape, and still practices for gigs that have a high probability of being canceled. “There’s nothing else to practice for, so I think I’ll be getting out the unaccompanied Bach partitas and playing those for my own enjoyment,” she says.

While some musicians are considering other means of temporary employment to make up for lost income, Kistler hasn’t considered anything else — yet.

“My husband says we should use the opportunity to get the house cleaned once and for all,” she jokes and notes that there are some positive aspects of video instruction. “A local friend of mine is having bandoneon lessons on Skype from an instructor in Argentina, which is kind of interesting,” she says.

But like so many musicians, what Kistler misses the most right now is the social interaction. “I still have my teaching, which is meaningful to me, but that other part – the social aspect of getting together musically with friends — is no longer there.”

CMS is proud to be able to keep our teachers working and our students learning with online lessons through TeacherZone and Google Meet.