SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The live music scene is yet another unfortunate casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, but local artists and performers are making do by reaching fans right where they are — their homes.
A number of musicians are taking to the web to host their own intimate performances, with some of them adding an interactive element to their shows by taking requests from their audiences.
Those looking for ways to satisfy their craving for live shows can check out the Savannah-area musicians and online concert series below.
Jalin Alexander Graham: ‘Motivational Music Minute’
Savannah Arts Academy senior and violist Jalin Graham saw the coronavirus outbreak as a time to uplift people with inspiring music.
Graham has played the viola since the 6th grade and has previously spoken and played at TEDxSavannah.
He started sharing his weekly Motivational Music Minute videos via Facebook on March 30 to offer encouragement to those going through a rough time as the pandemic continues.
“I thought I could use [my] musical talent because music is a universal language, and it’s an opportunity to connect people, even when we’re separated,” Graham told WSAV.com NOW.
“People can be a little anxious and a little depressed, especially with all the news, and music is a good way to escape all of that,” he said.
Each Motivational Music Minute is dedicated to a person or a group that could use a little positivity as they weather the storm of the ongoing global health crisis.
In his Motivational Music Minute debut, Graham played a touching rendition of Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s song, “See You Again,” in honor of the late grandmother of his mother’s friend.
He also dedicated the song to everyone missing loved ones who are kept apart from them due to social distancing.
Graham says he’s also holding the brief Facebook performances for couples who’ve had weddings canceled due to the pandemic, as well as his fellow graduating seniors whose final year of high school was upended by the virus.
In his latest video, the skilled violist encouraged his artistic peers to join in on his #2020GraduationChallenge, asking them to express their abilities by somehow incorporating the traditional graduation song, “Pomp and Circumstance.”
“Use your talent to celebrate the class of 2020 and add something like your senior quote or your favorite memory, and tag other seniors, as well,” he shared on Facebook. “Stay safe and have fun!”
To share dedication requests with Graham for his future Motivational Music Minute videos, you can reach him on his website by visiting here.
Eric Jones: Pianist, ‘Eric Jones Trio’
While Savannah State University’s campus is closed and classes are shifted to the internet, instructor and musician Eric Jones has some extra time to play music at home.
“I have had more time than I probably would’ve because I’m not out gigging, playing at clubs and different places like that,” Jones told WSAV.com NOW.
The art of music has pumped through his veins since the tender age of 5, when he first began pounding out melodies on his mother’s piano.
After over 35 years of perfecting his craft, it seems only right for the Eric Jones Trio musician to want to use his talents to touch people during this uncertain time.
He started sharing laid-back sessions via Facebook Live, where he chats with his viewers and plays tunes on his keyboard.
“As a musician and somebody that’s used to performing, it’s almost a need to perform in front of somebody, you know, to present music, whether it’s live or whether it’s something that I might record and put out there online for people to check out,” Jones said. “I’ve been doing it for most of my life.”
He started the Facebook performances on a whim, he says, and it seems to have garnered positive feedback from his viewers.
“I guess if anybody’s gonna do this, now’s the time to do it, because a lot of us have no place to go, and music is a good way to pass the time and enjoy yourself,” he said.
Jones and his band also recently performed to an audience of none at the Tybee Post Theater as part of Quarantine Concerts, organized by Michael Gaster.
“It took a little bit to get used to, because you look out and you see nothing but cameras,” he laughed, reflecting on the unique experience.
“But it wasn’t impersonal because we knew that people were watching it, and after a while, we got used to it and it was just like, ‘okay, we’re playing for people, it’s live and people are listening to it,’ and it was kinda cool,” Jones said.
Having found solace in his passion for music amid his triumphant battle with stage III non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma three years ago, the artist says he believes music can be therapeutic in difficult times.
“As musicians, I think this is a time where we’re most needed to provide a way to get away from all of this craziness, it’s unprecedented,” Jones said. “But we’ll survive, we’ll get through it.”
You can view Jones’ Facebook Live sessions by visiting here.
Michael Gaster: Executive Producer, ‘Quarantine Concerts’
As music events both locally and across the country began getting canceled or postponed in light of the pandemic, Michael Gaster came up with the idea of streaming live shows as a way to reach music fans stuck at home.
He himself went from having a “very full spring calendar” of events working as an engineer and systems designer to having a wide-open schedule as the cancelations rolled in.
“My first major event cancelled, and the next day, another major event of mine canceled, and then I was like, ‘now is the time to act,’” Gaster told WSAV.com NOW.
“That’s when I was like, ‘okay, Quarantine Concerts is going to be a reality,’” he said.
The unique shows are hosted at the Tybee Post Theater, where local artists perform a few times per week with only empty seats and three cameras looking up at them.
“I try to tell the performers to think of it as being in a studio, and you’re playing your best music, and there’s an audience that you should interact with — [but] they’re not in the room!” Gaster said.
“The performers are all like, ‘man, that was a little strange,’ but everyone has been great in the way that they interact with the at-home audiences,” he said.
The shows stream on Facebook Live, Vimeo and on QuarantineConcerts.org. They’re free of charge.
“We encourage some form of contribution to kind of help keep this going, there’s no charge to watch and if you do buy a ticket, all you’re doing is saying you’re supporting that event and this cause,” Gaster said.
Performers so far have included Jason Bible of the Trainwrecks; Lyn Avenue; the Eric Jones Trio; Reverend Bro Diddley and the Hips; and Phantom Wingo.
Gaster says he and his crew are trying to produce shows every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, along with more laid-back Sunday matinee shows.
He adds that he’s gotten a lot of positive feedback from the viewers jamming along at home.
“In times of crisis, a lot of people turn to the artists, they turn to the performers, they turn to music,” Gaster said.
“Music is a universal language, it can be exciting, soothing and has so much impact on our wellbeing, that it’s a very good thing to have, and it’s very important to put it out there,” he said.
Learn more about upcoming shows of the Quarantine Concerts by visiting here.