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, cellist Natalie Haas, an associate professor at Berklee College of Music, who is quarantined in Somerville, Massachusetts, has been teaching online, learning Spanish, and working on an album with Scottish fiddler and longtime collaborator Alasdair Fraser—and she recently performed a livestream concert with other players on the Scottish fiddling scene.

Tell me about your daily routine while quarantined?

I am lucky to still be teaching online part-time at Berklee, and also privately through the new site stringmasters.com. When not teaching, planning my curriculum, making instructional videos for String Masters, or helping to edit my new album with Alasdair Fraser, I am attempting to establish some normalcy by learning Spanish daily, practicing piano (still got a long way to go there!), practicing cello (practice routine varies depending on what I have on my plate—I will discuss that in more detail later), reading, cooking, and exercising (doing a lot of online Zumba classes these days!). 

What have you learned about yourself as a person and as a player while working and living in solitude?

I have allowed myself to remember just how much I enjoy practicing! My thumb position callouses are coming back—I have been doing a lot of Popper études—and I’m taking the time to learn skills that I normally don’t have the time to develop—improvising, alternative pizzicato techniques, composing, learning tunes, etc. Now if I can just work on my time management post-quarantine, I’ll be all set!

How are you staying connected with your audience during the quarantine?

I am still active on Instagram and Facebook, although less motivated these days for that kind of thing, and trying to get the word out about various musical activities I’m involved in, be it livestreaming, restreaming, or online teaching opportunities.

Why is it important to stay connected on social media? 


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That’s all we’ve got right now.

How have you selected your internet programming? 

I have only been involved in one livestream so far, and it was a wonderful evening of lots of our local Boston Scottish fiddle scene coming together for what felt like a great community event. My husband, Yann Falquet [guitarist with trad Québec group Genticorum] and I may decide to do a livestream ourselves once things die down a little bit—we’re both quite busy with recording and teaching work right now. I’ve also been involved in some pre-recorded collaborations, which was very satisfying—next best thing to actually playing together in a room.

What is the response like? 

We had over 650 viewers for that event, with extremely joyful comments flowing in afterwards. Hopefully, they all turn out like that! 

What have you learned about your audience as a result?

We’re lucky to have such a loyal fan base in the folk-music community—our people are incredibly generous and we’re all yearning for art, community, and comfort they provide right now.

How do you rate your experience with virtual performance? 

So far so good! We spent a lot of time getting our sound and video set up, and it was well worth the extra effort.

Any tips for other string players considering this path? 

Spend a little time and money tweaking your set up if you are going to be doing a lot of this—there are some good, cheap options out there. Otherwise, treat virtual performance with the same degree of care and quality you would a live performance—most importantly, be yourself and make sure you can laugh through all the technology fails, because they are bound to happen, even if you perfect everything on your end. There’s only so much we have control over. 

How will you continue going forward as a player? Will the quarantine change your path?

I think we’re all holding out to see when we can go back to being on the road and performing live for people. I love that lifestyle and the sense of community it creates, and hope it becomes possible again one day. If not, I get a lot out of teaching, even the online version, and could easily see myself doing more of this in the future.

Is there a message you’d like to share with our readers? 

We will get through this, and we will always need music! 

Check out the Strings Session with Natalie Haas and Alasdair Fraser at StringsMagazine.com.