Season 10 and COVID-19

Season 10 and COVID-19

Last night, nienteForte would have been hosting the concert that closed out our tenth season.

On the surface, the nienteForte community has been largely unaffected by COVID-19. None of the nF staff rely upon revenue to sustain their livelihood – this is a passion project of which we all volunteer our own time and energy with no profit, no benefits that can be written down on a financial ledger. Sure, it’s sad that we had to cut our tenth season short, but the postponement of this final concert follows three events that were incredibly successful. Given that two of these were mere weeks before New Orleans started to enforce social distancing, I look back on what nienteForte was able to do versus what could have been, and I place a tick firmly in the “win” column.

That said, the truly dangerous potential of this pandemic on nienteForte and the contemporary music and art community cannot be ignored.

I think it was my junior year in high school that I declared to my parents that I wanted to go to college for music, a declaration that was met with pretty heavy resistance. Not that they weren’t supportive of my musical side as they were pretty musical themselves (my mom got her degree in music), but given the increasing and promising careers in computer science at the time and my early affinity for computer programming (I started programming code in middle school, an abnormality at the time), my dad in particular was giving me the Talk about the stable career versus the dream career, pushing me to consider a life path similar to theirs with a simple message – a career in music is a tough road. Keep music as a hobby, earn the consistent paycheck with a regular job.

I’ll never know what sort of life I’d have now if I ended up pursuing computer science. I do know that the choice to chase that music career nurtured the part of me that even to this day consistently celebrates exploration and discovery regardless of if I succeed or fail. I have always been and will always be the best version of myself as a dreamer and explorer, and I’m grateful that my parents ultimately supported me in that choice despite their initial resistance.

This is the biggest fight we have to face in a post-COVID world – the squashing of future dreamers and explorers. I can imagine parents of high schoolers having the Talk with their exploratory kids now. “Look at what COVID has done to the artists, the freelancers, the small business entrepreneurs. Is that really worth the risk?”

I have no doubt that the ripple effect of this pandemic will tip the scales more heavily towards the practical. As everyone reevaluates their own life pursuits and those of their children in the aftermath of this pandemic, contemporary music and art as a niche within a niche buried inside of another niche will be viewed to many as expendable. While I acknowledge that that is probably true for those masses, all that does is invigorate me to find, expose, and breathe life into those who view it the creative oxygen that they never knew they needed until they found it. As a dreamer and optimist in the strength and momentum of the unique and unusual, I believe that while the scales will tip against these niche freelance and creative fields and make them suffer, they will never completely die and will come back stronger than ever. There will always exist individuals that are willing to break that norm, chase that far away cloud, throw themselves headfirst into an unknown depth with open eyes and laughter refusing to be suppressed.

It’s been so uplifting to see so many individuals and organizations of all shapes and sizes rise up to make their voices heard and keep those dreams and inspirations alive. The passion and compassion shown by so many invested in contemporary music and art during this crisis shows me that it is more important than ever that we come together as a community to be a beacon that proves our relevance, resilience, and vigilance. The path to our stability will not be easy, but the work that’s been done to this day and the work we continue to do together will go a long way to prove that the answer to the question of “Is that really worth the risk?” is a confident and unwavering yes.

See you all in Season 11.

Mendel Lee
Co-Director/Founder
nienteForte Contemporary Music

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