TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic has touched virtually every aspect of our lives, at times forcing us to find novel ways of doing things. That certainly has been true for entertainers, who continue to face challenges in their industry.
Brent McPike, also known as B.G., is a musician based in Terre Haute who specializes in solo-classical guitar, but mainly performs in a duo with Solly Burton, whose specialty is the mandolin.
“It drastically reduced our activity, like everyone else,” McPike said. "All of us musicians felt it, both in our teaching and in our performing. It affected everything. In a typical year, Solly and I, we’ll be playing twice a month. We would have at least two to three dozen gigs a year. Our last public gig before shutdown was March 13, 2020 in the Ohio Building. Compared to a normal year’s worth of my performance income, 2020 was about 20 percent of that.”
McPike teaches music-based classes part time at Indiana State University and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, with classes ranging from guitar techniques to private musical lessons.
“Teaching wise, everything went online,” he said. “For me, as a guitar instructor, the hardest thing about teaching lessons online was the fact that I couldn’t play together, in sync, with the students, due to the lag. Accompanying someone while they learn a melody doesn’t allow for lag. I could play something, and they could play it back, but without super expensive microphones and connections, the tone just isn’t there.
“My guitar ensemble couldn’t play together either. They had to record their parts and send them in. Music is most enjoyable when it’s together and spontaneous, for me anyway, and that element was gone,” he said.
Anthony Foldenauer, another local musician, used the internet to stay on top of his musical talents during the pandemic.
“Live music ceased to exist, so it led a lot of musicians and entertainers to try to find out a way to continue,” Foldenauer said. “Eventually, the main way of staying afloat for musicians was the internet. My band, Lazer Boogie, took our live shows to the internet via broadcasted performances. It became the only way for people to watch you perform. Even though COVID took live music, it led a lot of musicians to sit inside and write some of their best music.”
Musicians aren’t the only performers that were affected by COVID.
Levi Elmore is a local comedian and host of Tolly’s Bar and Grill comedy open mic night.
“As far as the comedy nights go, it definitely was quite a bit different from the pre-COVID era,” Elmore said. “All of us comedians came to a complete standstill while everything was shut down. After a while, some of us started doing podcasts and some entertainment venues started doing virtual shows via Zoom and other broadcasting services.
“The adoption of online/virtual platforms has been the biggest change I’ve seen in the entertainment industry with COVID. Most of the challenges came from the availability of performance opportunities, or lack thereof. For such a long time in 2020, everything was closed and we had to adapt around that issue. Even now with many mask mandates lifting and vaccinations becoming more widely available, there are quite a few venues that are still either completely closed or closely monitoring capacity.
“We have had comedians from Indianapolis, Bloomington and even Louisville, Kentucky, who have come to Terre Haute for our open mic nights because their areas still have not reopened for shows,” Elmore said.
Terre Haute and other places are slowly beginning to open back up, and all musicians and entertainers have been waiting for this since the lockdown in 2020.
“Performing now, after COVID, it’s kind of sweet,” McPike said. “It’s sweet to do something that you miss. I spent a lot of time practicing and I kept my technique in shape. I kept my hands on my guitar 24 to 25 days a month. Music is the only job I’ve had since 1991.”
While entertainers are eager to perform again, there are still potential setbacks.
“The biggest challenge entertainers are facing is trying to play shows in a safe manner,” Foldenauer said. “The big question is, are the shows potential places to catch COVID? It’s hard telling your friends and family to come out to see you preform at a place they could possibly get sick at.
“Another big problem is touring/traveling. A lot of bands don’t make money off of music like they used to, so touring plays a huge part in an artist’s income. Since there is no real consistency in COVID rules among states, it has a lot of people not knowing whether or not they can even travel to cities they would normally make money in.”