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, concert violinist Lara St. John, who is quarantined in New York City, has been binging on TV and posting new performance videos. For more on St. John‘s new album Key of A, stay tuned for a Strings magazine feature in the May/June 2020 issue.
Tell us about your daily routine while quarantined during the pandemic?
I’m quarantined in Manhattan, New York. I wish I could say I was learning a new skill set, language, three new concertos, and writing King Lear the Second. But no, I’m just trying to accomplish at least one thing every day and stay positive. Neither is easy, but the 7 PM cheer helps a little.
What have you learned about yourself while working and living in solitude?
Well, though I always knew this—I am apparently an intrinsically lazy person. Without upcoming concerts or deadlines, I am basically a couch/bed potato who is perfectly able to watch entire seasons of shows all day long whilst scarfing tons of popcorn. Without given deadlines, I have to create them for myself—a new sort of discipline, which I am getting better at, though very, very slowly.
How are you staying connected with your audience during the quarantine?
My pet iguana has been the star of a few videos for my Youtube channel and I performed some new pieces live on the Violin Channel Facebook page on April 15. Also, on April 17, I brought out my album with pianist Matt Herskowitz, Key of A, which includes works by Franck and Kreutzer, so there will be more videos coming!
Why is it important to stay connected on social media?
It would be a shame to lose both physical and virtual touch with people and audiences. At the very least we have that one mode of communication.
How have you selected your internet programming?
I’ve been staying very lighthearted because there is enough bad news these days. For the Violin Channel show, I’ve been doing some Canadian Celtic and Roma tunes, accompanied by my feet, along with short solo pieces by Melissa Dunphy and Gabriela Lena Frank, and a bit o’ Bartok and Bach.
What is the response like?
I get a lot of laugh emojis for the non-serious stuff. My giant lizard is a true celebritiggy. I’m happy he gives folks a smile.
What have you learned about your audience as a result?
I think audiences, like everyone, have changed in the last few weeks—everyone is anxious and desperate for meaning. Although nothing will ever replace a live, in-person concert, ideally we artists can create some remote beauty that will help people in the next while.
How do you rate your experience with virtual performance?
As an audio, and especially, video nerd, I’m not crazy about just using an iPhone, although the latest model is quite something, video-wise. I’m setting up a studio in my home that will hopefully feel live for folks with great speakers. I have waited to post much content until this is up and running.
Any tips for other string players considering this path?
An external mic for your phone makes a big difference!
How will you continue going forward as a player?
I don’t know if anyone is sure about that at this moment. Ideally all of our postponed concerts will happen eventually, and audiences will flock to concerts like never before! We’ll have to see.
Is there a message you’d like to share with our readers? Don’t despair. We’ll get through this. And the one and only upside—all of our pets are so happy!