Creative Freedom: Musicians Stay Relevant While Quarantined

By Seth Washington



As best laid plans go, singer Coniece Washington was scheduled to perform an alluring set or two of Jazz standards at Maryland Live Casino, on Friday, April 24 and later that weekend, Tobal daGriot's open mic series, The Variety Show, would begin a crowd pleasing residency at Everlasting Life Cafe.  Without fail, keyboardist Claudia Rogers and her collaborators of the vibrant, all female Be'la Dona band, convened for rehearsals, each Tuesday evening.  While on any day of the week, Dean T. West Sr. could be found accommodating a musical artist with authentic audio expertise at his GDIC Live Performance and Rehearsal space. Then something happened.


From the left of stage, a viral element known scientifically as COVID-19 made it's dramatic entrance and now like millions of us, our performers find themselves at home, sheltering in place by order of the state and local governments. In these times, the musical concept of 'improvisation' has become the style of many artists regarding the refined aesthetics of earning income, maintaining connection with their audience, remaining both true to their craft and to themselves. 



Claudia 'Kool Keys' Rogers is a proud mother of three sons, as well as, a Minister of Music, at Bethlehem Baptist Church.  In the current  absence of in-person worship services, Rogers recently performed a moving rendition of the song "It Is Well With My Soul", via social media, sharing the healing power of hymns to the delight of her followers.  A full- time musician, she further engages technology by providing keyboard lessons via the Zoom teleconferencing app, thus ensuring that her music students remain consistent within their artistic development.  



While his main facility is closed during this period, remaining essential to the performing arts community is vital to Dean T. West Sr. and for the native of Fort Washington, Maryland, technology is also key.  Through applications such as DropBox, musicians needing mixing or mastering services for their songs, send digital files to West Sr. who then finalizes the request at his home studio and reforwards the file afterwards.  With excellent foresight, West Sr. began posting commercial reminders about these services via Facebook and Instagram, shortly before the stay-at-home declaration was issued.



Of course the show must go on, but when? Tobal daGriot awaits the official notice allowing public gatherings to resume, as we all do. Until such time, the Washingtonian and devoted hometown football fan delves ever deeper into his song writing, spoken word recordings and the video editing of his performances.  Some key themes within daGriot's art include social justice, self-empowerment and family love. During the recent weeks, he has continued to uplift and entertain audiences by sharing his original creative content on the Facebook and YouTube platforms.



April is the month of Jazz and Straight Ahead singer Coniece Washington had many 'gigs' lined up in preparation for the celebration.  Now, in these moments of social distancing and cancelled show dates, the retired Army veteran must find fulfillment elsewhere.  An ongoing student of her craft, Washington maintains lessons with her vocal coach by Face Time and leverages social media to stay connected with followers and friends.  Likewise, a nice walk outdoors, while wearing a stylish face mask, gloves and her loyal canine Floyd, in tow, help to keep the graceful songstress at peace as she patiently anticipates her return to the stage.




Seth Washington writes about performing arts for V&P Magazine and brings a first-hand appreciation of the art spectrum.  


As a very active spoken word artist and master of ceremonies, his performance work routinely partners him with the kinds of musicians, singers dancers and other creative souls that he writes about.


During a previous period along his aesthetic path, Washington also captured 35mm film portraits and performance photos of jazz, rock and hip hop entities including national ,as well as, local DC area artists.


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