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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Sound Of Silence: COVID-19 Mutes Boise Philharmonic Season

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Boise Philharmonic
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How do you keep the music playing when you’re a world-class musician or conductor and you’re under a stay-at-home order? Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boise Philharmonic has had to cancel its remaining concerts for the current season. As a result, some of Idaho’s finest artists are playing to an audience of one: themselves.

Morning Edition host George Prentice visits with Eric Garcia, Music Director of the Boise Philharmonic and Kate Jarvis, Assistant Concertmaster for the Boise Phil about the extraordinary circumstances that have left them and their colleagues in need of sharing their talent.

“We didn’t get into music to sit in a room and play on our own. We need that connection. We need an audience. We need our connection with a group of other musicians.”

Read the full transcipt below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: On a Friday, it's Morning Edition. You're listening to Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. The state of Idaho - all of us – are now under a stay-at-home order, not a suggestion, an order, as the number of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to climb.

There are so many things that we are sheltered from, including those things that, quite simply, we need and make us feel better. Near the top of that list is music, live music. Eric Garcia is the music director of the Boise Philharmonic. Kate Jarvis is the assistant concertmaster at the Boise Phil. I have them on the line both via Skype. They're at different locations, but let's say good morning to them both.

ERIC GARCIA: Good morning, George.

KATE JARVIS: Good morning.

PRENTICE: First of all, let's do a health check here. Kate, how are you doing? How's your health?

JARVIS: I'm just fine. Thanks for asking.

PRENTICE: Okay. Eric?

GARCIA: I can't complain. Thank you for asking, George.

PRENTICE: Okay. Well, I am sad to say, but for the record, the Boise Phil has canceled its remaining concerts for the season. Eric, maybe you can speak to this.

GARCIA: Of course.

PRENTICE: It's my sense that the Boise Philharmonic has been in the last year or two enjoying renewed popularity, such energy, and then this.

GARCIA: This period is very unique. It poses an enormous challenge. First and foremost, the Philharmonic wishes for the safety and wellbeing of our community. As you know George, the arts are about communication between the composer, the performer, the musicians, and the listeners. This time really does pose a true challenge because we're experiencing a literal barrier between the performer and our audiences.

PRENTICE: Kate, you are an artist but you are a professional, you can't work remotely. Aren't you unemployed right now?

JARVIS: To a certain extent, yes. I think a lot of the work that we do is actually behind the scenes in the practice room. We still have the opportunity to do that. Obviously, we have to continue to practice, despite the fact that we don't have any upcoming performances because those skills require maintenance and if we don't do the daily practicing, then those skills start to deteriorate. I think for us right now, we're just trying to make sure that we continue to practice and maintain those skills for the next time that we are able to get up in front of our audiences again and perform.

One thing that we are still able to do, a lot of musicians, myself included, are also teachers. We've had to adjust our typical lesson format to video. Last week, I taught a whole week of video lessons to my students. It was great to be able to see their faces and still make music with them and encourage them and watch them get better at their instruments.

PRENTICE: I would be remiss if I didn't interject some amount of music here, so we have a little bit of music here from the Boise Philharmonic. Let's listen together.

(Boise Philharmonic performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations)

PRENTICE: Wow, that's a tonic for the soul. Eric, what are we listening to?

GARCIA: This is Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations. This is such a personal work because there's such humanity to this piece. Edward Elgar composed a series of variations and each variation is a portrait of one of his dear friends. There's such elegance to this variation. There's laughter, there's beauty. To me, it seemed like a really, like I said, apropos piece, in a way, because it's everything that we could use right now, certainly.

PRENTICE: I think it's a perfect moment for us to take some stock in our relationship, which is to say the relationship between you as artists and we as your audience and how we truly need each other.

JARVIS: There's some kind of self-gratification we get from playing music for ourselves, but ultimately, we didn't get into music to just sit in a room and play on our own. We need that connection. We need an audience. We need the connection between groups of musicians. That's part of what makes being a musician such a joy, is being able to play with other people and for other people. That's something that we don't get the opportunity to do right now, which is hard. I think just as humans, we're built for connection, so this is a period of time when we're being told to stay away from each other, which is against our nature.

GARCIA: Yes. During times of normalcy, a conductor really cannot make music on their own. They need musicians. To what Kate said, yes, it's absolutely true. For a conductor to not have access, to be able to interact with the other musicians, they can't make music even on their own alone, so this period is really difficult.

What's really encouraging is we're seeing musicians across the country, throughout the world, and they're becoming very creative and it's very encouraging. They're making music from home through Skype, they're making music with others, and they're posting it online. This is very encouraging, this ingenuity and this sense of collaboration.

I'm really excited to see what our collective imagination comes up with because we have to keep performing with one another. We have to communicate to a large audience. Music is there to heal the soul, to be a mirror for what we are experiencing as humans. What we're experiencing right now with musicians is we're finding ways to make music somehow and get it out there to our audience.

PRENTICE: He is Eric Garcia, music director of the Boise Philharmonic. She is Kate Jarvis, assistant concertmaster at the Boise. Phil. Thank you so much.

JARVIS: Thank you.

GARCIA: Thank you, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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