Within stay-at-home order, local musicians find ways to create, share, teach music

With COVID-19 closing music venues, musicians have turned to online concerts, lessons and even front-porch performances to share their work.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Living rooms and front porches are the new studios and stages. Even with statewide stay-at-home orders in effect, Steamboat Springs musicians have proved over the past month they can still find ways to create, share and teach their craft.

Most new material and projects have been in the form of video. 

Music lessons via video

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Randy Kelley had always steered away from teaching his music students over video but in the past few weeks has learned how to teach successful virtual lessons. He’s teaching about a dozen students per week, mostly in Suzuki guitar, as well as several in fiddle and mandolin.

“There are certain parts that just work better face to face,” Kelley said.

For example, take tuning. In a face-to-face lesson, Kelley would efficiently tune a student’s instrument himself, but over video, he talks the student through the process. Kelley also encountered issues with being able to play a song simultaneously with a student, due to the lag in sound over video. This obstacle he overcomes by vocalizing the counts and focusing on the timing of his own notes.

But overall, Kelley reports that virtual music lessons have worked out great for him and his students. The Suzuki method relies heavily on ear training, and students and teachers taking turns playing.

The method also incorporates games into lessons to keep students engaged. Kelley is still devising games that translate well over video but has so far been offering tic-tac-toe, with each turn sandwiched between playing a musical repetition and guess-that-song games.

“These kids are really good at learning,” he said. “They’re just amazing.”

Livestreamed shows

For several weeks, the Chief Theater has been throwing Chief Theater Living Room Sessions, in which local musicians live stream from the safety of their home. 

“It’s completely intimidating, playing the whole thing by yourself, looking into the camera,” said Todd Musselman, who performed in the April 18 Living Room Sessions. “But the beauty of music is that it causes you to be present and connect to your spirit, whether you’re by yourself or in front of people.” 

Other musicians who’ve taken part in the series include Andrew Pratt, Suzy Bouzo, Hayley Berg, Mike Martinez, Ryan Fleming, The Tisch Family Singers and Cowboy Brad Fitch. Next up in the Living Room Sessions is singer-songwriter Jay Roemer, set for 7 p.m. Saturday. Tune in at the Chief Theater’s Facebook page.

According to Chief Theater Executive Director Scott Parker, several hundred people from across the country have watched the online shows, and several thousands of dollars have been raised during the shows to support the downtown theater.

“The response has been incredible,” Parker said.

Clark-based, singer-songwriter Adia Clark Lay also found a new way to collaborate with other musicians online. Pablo Amat, a friend she’d met at a summer program at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, reached out inviting Clark Lay to be part of a collaboration of dozens of musicians covering John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.” 

“He wanted to lift people’s spirits during this time of social distancing, and I thought it was a really good idea,” Clark Lay said. 

Each of the 45 musicians, all between the ages of 13 and 19, recorded themselves playing the song from their homes across the world, including Australia and Spain. Amat then combined all their voices and instruments into a single music video. Clark Lay can be found singing her parts with a North Routt mountainscape background.

“It’s really cool, because the video is reaching people all over the world,” Clark Lay said.

Local band Three Wire Winter had its Facebook Live show debut last week, supported by AEG Presents Rocky Mountains. The plan was to have the concert outside, but when snow started falling, the group moved its setup into dobro player Fritz Boniface’s living room. Boniface noted that the Facebook Live stream had a few tech-related hiccups, but the sound quality was great. 

“The biggest (difference between a live and virtual audience) is that you don’t get that feedback from the crowd,” he said. “But it was good to have comments coming in, and friends were calling and texting, asking for certain songs.” 

The virtual show also featured a bonus element: between songs, band members would open an envelope containing a ridiculous task that friends of the band had written beforehand, such as to eat a banana in 20 seconds or to juggle an egg over someone’s head. 

The goal of the show, Boniface said, was to get people off their couch and on their feet and to help them to forget that they’re at home.

“I think it went really well, in that sense,” he said.

Like most virtual concerts, viewers were able to contribute to the band’s efforts via Venmo, but the band — whose members are all still employed — decided that the money should benefit the community. The $300 raised will remain in a holding account with Old Town Pub. The plan is that when mass gathering is safe again, the money will support a community-oriented event. 

Watch a recording of the livestreamed show on Three Wire Winter’s Facebook page.

Cars line the street for singer-songwriter Adia Clark Lay’s drive-up outdoor concert in Clark on April 4.
Adia Clark Lay/courtesy

Drive-up outdoor concert

Clark Lay also hosted an outdoor drive-up concert from her front porch in early April, which was livestreamed onto Facebook. She encouraged guests to donate food items and toilet paper to the LiftUp of Routt County Food Bank, and invited fans to request songs from a list of more than 50 covers and originals. 

“It felt good to actually get out and play for people,” Clark Lay said. 

Pre-pandemic, Clark Lay played much of her music in restaurants and bars.

“(When I’m playing in a restaurant or bar,) people’s attention isn’t 100% devoted to me, but at the drive-in concert, it was,” Clark Lay reflected. “It was encouraging.”

In addition to collecting more than 40 pounds of food for LiftUp, Clark Lay also earned tips via Venmo, which support care associated with a concussion she’s been dealing with since February.

Clark Lay is also working on writing a song, currently untitled.

“It’s about all being alone but still connected,” she said.

Cars line the street for singer-songwriter Adia Clark Lay’s drive-up outdoor concert in Clark on April 4, 2020. In addition to accepting tips via Venmo, Clark Lay encouraged audience members — both those in their cars and those listening via video livestream — to donate food items and toilet paper to Lift Up Food Bank.
Adia Clark Lay/courtesy

Watch Clark Lay’s livestream at her Facebook page.

Steamboat Creates Executive Director Kim Keith has watched the local artistic community adapt to social distancing measures over the past several weeks as she and her team have been working to compile resources for creatives, such as grants, contests and other funding sources. She notes that the community is benefitted by these livestream performances.

“What I would like to see more of is people paying or tipping the musicians so they can stay afloat in the ‘Boat,” Keith said. “The artists, musicians and creatives in our communities are some of the hardest hit by the stay-at-home orders. If we want them to continue to live here and provide a vibrant music scene as we come out of the stay-at-home orders, then we need to find ways to financially support them.” 

Local creatives can find Steamboat Creates’ list of resources at

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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