Dear Gov. Justice:
I’m writing to you as both a musician and as a citizen deeply concerned about the spread of COVID-19. This has been a difficult summer for everybody, but I feel musicians have really been given the short end of the stick. Your executive order issued 7/13/20 “to reinstitute the prohibition of live music, even in outdoor or open-air settings” has removed our ability to legally perform in every established outdoor venue in WV, as well as to plan and perform outdoor festival style concerts and or even outdoor, informal house concerts.
Meanwhile, over the summer, I have attended multiple Little League games, where it seemed to be business as usual. Few people seemed to be socially distanced, and I was always one of only two or three people wearing a mask. This leads me to wonder why on earth we can’t have outdoor concerts? I live within earshot of The Greenbrier, and for two weeks in July I could hear an announcer every evening presumably addressing a crowd during the 2020 World TeamTennis event held at the hotel. I wondered how a socially distanced concert could be any more dangerous than a tennis convention with overnight stays at a hotel?
If the short answer is “alcohol,” I get it (tailgating excluded). Even so, music and alcohol do not have to come as a packaged deal. In fact, I welcome the day that they don’t. I think it is extremely unfair to make the live music industry pay the price for the lack of social distancing that inebriation might induce. Concert series like The Ivy Terrace, an outdoor concert series in Lewisburg, or a soloist playing on the patio of a restaurant could, in my opinion, have been conducted in a safe, responsible manner.
So, why can’t we musicians just be content with jam sessions of under 25 musicians in people’s backyards? Well, besides those gigs not paying very well, that’s a bit like telling the basketball team that for one entire season they will only have practices with drills and scrimmages, but no actual games with real opponents, no adrenaline thrill, and no feeling the like hard work you have put in has culminated in a special performance where you put all you have into that moment. Sound familiar?
I have tried multiple careers in the hopes that I didn’t have to be a professional musician, but nothing else I have tried has felt like it fit me. For me, and many of my friends, this is where our passion and our joie de vivre lie. This summer, we have lost our income, many of our opportunities to congregate, and ability communicate our passion with others. My point here is not that we should take additional COVID-19 transmission risks and allow live music because musicians are sad, and life is unfair, but that we could easily come up with safe ways and guidelines to enjoy live music because really, how are they so different from an outdoor sporting event?
This virus isn’t going away overnight. In fact, it looks like it could be a fairly bleak winter in store ahead of us. I don’t expect you to allow live outdoor music tomorrow, but I do hope that your administration can develop some guidelines to implement in the spring of 2021 that might allow live music to exist next spring and summer. The current unconditional prohibition is too restrictive, and denies musicians and music lovers a part of life that we deem essential. Other places have instituted caps on audience numbers, structured socially distanced seating, and drive-in style shows where you listen from your vehicle. These are some ideas, but I’m sure there are even better ones out there just waiting to be hatched.
Lastly, thanks for all the work you have done and are doing to keep people safe, it can’t be easy work.
White Sulphur Springs