Staying Creative and Connected
Little did I know when I signed up for an international online songwriting group at the end of February 2020 that it would become my primary music community for over a year. What a godsend.
That accountability, camaraderie, and structure to keep up a songwriting practice have contributed to me writing more songs over the past eighteen months despite a variety of trying circumstances close to home and in the collective. Writing at least a song a week also gives me a chance to process shifting world and personal circumstances in real time; to make something of it, to experience the solace of focused creative process in the moment- whatever the outcome.
The opportunity to participate in workshops via Zoom has also supported my songwriting practice. Some are actual classes and others are geared toward giving and receiving feedback on new material, which I’ve particularly enjoyed since many of the usual in-person open mic and song circle events where writers can test drive new songs and air out some of that “new song smell” haven’t been available. I appreciate how these online events transcend geography with participants from all over the country and even from around the world. Offerings from musicians who’d otherwise be on the road or presenting the occasional workshop at a distant festival are now accessible from my dining table.
On a similar note, I attended a couple of online music conferences this year including my first Folk Alliance International. As a person with some physical conditions that can be aggravated by travel and sleep deprivation (sleep deprivation at a music conference?! never!), the online conference was not only more accessible in terms of time, cost and distance, but also health-wise. Though it was a different experience to gather online rather than in-person, there were still many benefits including exceptional presentations, creative opportunities to connect with others, and less carbon emissions/adverse environmental impact.
It’s disheartening that virus cases have been going up again, but it’s encouraging that the vaccines hold up remarkably well even against new variants. And there are plenty of glimmers of hopefulness. I was recently blessed to go on an in-person songwriting retreat that had been postponed for a year. We were even able to have socially distanced, outdoor song sharing each night. Here’s to creating more and varied ways to mitigate risks and help live music thrive and remain accessible.
Of note, that songwriting retreat was hosted by someone I originally met at FAR-West over a decade ago, then reconnected with years later at a music camp… that I also initially learned about at FAR-West! We never know how such chance meetings will unfold years later. A reminder that EVERYTHING is connected, including all of us and we remain connected even when physically apart.
~ Donna Lynn Caskey
“Banjo Gal” Donna Lynn Caskey is a singer-songwriter and clawhammer banjo player based in Ventura, California. She’s participated in FAR-West since 2009. Listen and learn more at http://www.donnalynncaskey.com