As told to Greg Cahill
Keep Connected chronicles the ways in which string players and organizations are supporting and keeping in touch with their audiences or students throughout the global coronavirus pandemic quarantine.
This week, fiddler Brittany Haas, who is sheltering in place at her home on the east side of Nashville, Tennessee, while her band, Hawktail, is sidelined, has been sharing sheet music on YouTube and teaching online while splitting her time between social-work studies and music.
Tell me about your daily routine while quarantined.
My daily routine has just shifted because I just completed a graduate education program, which was able to continue online once the pandemic hit. This included coursework and an internship at a clinic, which switched to tele-health in early March, meaning I spent a lot of time on Zoom meetings and phone calls. Now I have a master’s degree in social work, and no job yet, so suddenly I have more time for music, gardening, and reading!
What have you learned about yourself as a person and as a player while working and living in solitude?
I have learned how nice it is to be sedentary enough to notice more about my environment. I have sat on the porch and watched the birds feast on worms in the grass around dusk, I have seen the daily growth of planted seeds and wild plants—the chickweed flowering, the dead purple nettle turning yellow, and the sprouts getting bigger every day. It’s exciting to hone in on the details, which is harder to remember to do when you are constantly in motion. As far as the musical side of things—I feel like I finally have time to think about things more deeply, instead of just barely staying ahead of what needs to get done. So that is nice—it allows for more perspective on what I want to accomplish with my time on Earth. I’m still figuring it out, but I enjoy the mental space, for sure. Not to say that you can’t have this while on tour, but that has been more challenging for me.
How are you staying connected with your audience during the quarantine?
One of the first cancelled shows that my band, Hawktail, would have been playing was the Savannah Music Festival. The festival asked that in lieu of a live appearance, bands make a video that they would share as a part of the fest’s YouTube series. We had been thinking for a while about publishing sheet music for some of our original tunes, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get that done since we couldn’t be on tour. So we made a video [watch it below] to promote the sheet music, which ended up being really fun—we enlisted a bunch of friends to learn snippets of the tunes and put it all together, plus some silly footage of us playing all the different instruments we had lying around. This was our way of staying connected, without putting on another streaming show—we wanted to emphasize the fact that everyone can play music, so it would be cool for us to share our tunes with our audience in a participatory way.
What is the response like?
The response to the Hawktail poster was amazing and very sweet—people had so many nice things to say in the comments when they made a purchase on Bandcamp, and videos of folks playing the tunes are popping up occasionally, which always make me happy to hear.
Why is it important to stay connected on social media?
Social media is one of the few ways that we can stay connected right now, to anyone who doesn’t live in our vicinity. There is also a great chance to get connected with folks that are closer to us—like our neighbors that we may have been too busy to get to know previously. But in terms of audiences and friends that are so spread out because we are used to traveling as musicians and being able to visit people who are far away pretty frequently, social media is the way that we’ve come up with to do that. It’s efficient: You can let everyone who follows you know what’s up, just like that. So it’s a way for musicians to remain active, even though we can’t go put on shows like we’d planned.
How have you selected your internet programming?
My friend and mentor, Darol Anger, asked me to be a guest teacher on his teaching platform, ArtistWorks, along with Jenna Moynihan and Alex Hargreaves. That has been a lot of fun—to get to meet some of his lovely students and to see how that teaching exchange method works. I’ve also done some teaching via Skype/Facetime, made a #LivefromHome video for Live From Here’s Instagram/YouTube series, and have even done some overdubbing in my makeshift home studio, for a Live From Here radio episode and for other friends’ projects. That’s been fun—to get into the gear side of things a bit more now that I can’t just step into a studio with someone who knows exactly how to do the necessary things.
What have you learned about your audience as a result?
I think we already knew how awesome our audience is—so that’s just been reiterated.
How will you continue going forward as a player? Will the quarantine change your path?
I honestly don’t know. I think that will all depend on what happens next in the world.
Is there a message you’d like to share with our readers?
Stay focused on what’s important to you, and do everything you can to enjoy this strange time of stasis. Think of others who have it harder than you, and remember that all of this is temporary.
Ready to hear some of Brittany Haas’ playing? As a part of the Haas-Kowert-Tice trio, she recorded an exclusive Strings Session video. Hawktail’s new album, Formations, is also available in various formats.