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How Musicians Are Keeping The Beat Through The Coronavirus

Woman playing a guitar and singing
Sarasota based singer-songwriter Sara Nelms performing during a recent live stream event.

From job loss, to balancing work from home to the isolation of following stay-at-home orders, coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. WUSF is giving you a voice to share those experiences.

Today, we meet Sarasota based singer-songwriter Sara Nelms. Before the pandemic, Nelms had an active schedule with gigs at bars, restaurants and clubs.

In her own words, Nelms shares what it means to be a performer at this time of social distancing.

"Like other artistic careers, it's always a delicate balance to actually make a living from your art but my husband and I were actually doing it and raising a family as working musicians. Now we're pretty much having to reinvent the wheel since all of the venues have closed. I would say we started to get nervous about losing our jobs and all of them drying up about the first week in March. My last gig was March 14th. It was a gorgeous sunset at a polo match and I knew that I better really soak that in because it was going to be my last performance for a while and we had no idea when we would be making more money ...

Pretty much immediately, my husband and I both started doing live streaming shows on Facebook. At first it was like a new project. It felt really exciting to be able to reach people that weren't local, that usually couldn't come to our shows. Those first few shows had a ton of people watching. We were actually able to make pretty good money with tips using PayPal and Venmo...

Other than that, I have adapted to remote music by starting to teach private lessons on video chat. I'm teaching basic music to beginners. I'm teaching voice lessons, ukulele and beginner guitar. It's been a big change, but I'm really happy to have added teaching to my skill set. Right now, we have no idea when music will start to be a priority. As businesses start to reopen, if restaurants are at 25% or half capacity, we don't know if they'll be able to afford entertainment if they're barely making their bills, especially after being completely closed down for a while...

Our online stuff is nowhere near enough to pay the bills yet, so hopefully we'll be able to pull through until a bit of normalcy returns. I worry for the whole music community, but we are resilient. You don't make it this far to be a professional musician without having faced setbacks in the past. You have to be a fighter to be willing to put yourself out there."

This story is produced in partnership with America Amplified, an initiative using community engagement to inform local journalism. It is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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