COVID-19 is changing our lives, and the music industry is no exception. With social gatherings restricted or prohibited, music venues are closed to spectators and live music has been almost impossible to observe. This is devastating, as live music venues create more than 10,000 jobs and create an economic impact of $850 million each year in Toronto.
Music professors and students are no exception — university or college affiliated professors now have to teach students through online formats, and students must learn and make connections online.
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To get a closer look at the effects of COVID-19 on the music industry, I’ve had the pleasure to interview Michael Pelletier, a professor in the Music Business program at Humber College in Toronto. He worked as a sales and marketing rep at Universal Music from 2000 – 2008 and is currently a professional bassist, composer and bandleader. The interview provided insight into how musicians, professors and students are coping amidst COVID-19, and what they think the future will hold.
As a musician, how has COVID-19 impacted your daily life? What new things do you have to do?
The greatest impact has been financial. I have also spent less time travelling for work, which amounts to huge savings and more time with family.
Has COVID-19 given you the opportunity for things you don’t usually do? Do you play music at home?
I decided to take some online courses to improve my credentials, spent more time practicing and writing music and more time for exercise. I do play music at home every day. When the pandemic is over, being prepared to work again at the level that is required will be important.
As a professor, how was the online teaching experience? What changes did you have to make in comparison to last year?
Online teaching at first was somewhat uncomfortable as most major changes are. Over time, it was embraced by myself and the students, which I feel contributed to a very successful learning experience for everyone. The most significant change versus in-class learning is the opportunity to be available before and after class for additional discussion and reflection with my students.
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If you are required to teach online again next year, would you still do it? Are there things you would do differently now that you’ve taught online this year?
Yes, absolutely. One area of improvement would be more time spent just having casual conversations outside of regularly scheduled class time. This helps build relationships.
As a musician/professor, has support been given to you? If so, what kind?
Humber College was very supportive, giving me all of the tools and resources to support the transition online. Tutorials, additional meetings and detailed resources were prepared and available 24/7 for reference.
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Other than what’s already been given, what support do you think musicians, music students and music professors need during this pandemic?
They need financial support and outlets to be creative and to collaborate with others in their chosen field.
Do you think things will go back to the way they were after the pandemic ends? If you don’t think so, what changes do you think will occur, and will the effects last long term?
There will be a greater appreciation for the value of human interaction. In creative pursuits and teaching, this is essential. In addition to the traditional resources available, we will have access to the digital delivery component of learning and performing, strengthening our presence in the marketplace.
Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone that wants to be a part of the music industry during and after COVID-19, and do you have any last words for musicians/music fans?
Stay busy! Keep learning and honing your craft. Stay connected to the people that can make a difference in your career so you can be ready when the time comes. Lastly, don’t ever take music work for granted. We have learned that it can be taken away at a moment’s notice.