New Normal? Creative solutions for difficult times

A journey through JMI's members' responses to Covid-19

  • 9 months ago

The Covid-19 crisis has impacted every aspect of lie, and the music world has been far from immune. The moment is such, that we will most likely talk in terms of before and after the pandemic.

JMI's members have equally felt and witnessed the crisis, with hundreds of events being cancelled and large portions funding lost. However, through the darkness has shone the creation of many extraordinary actions and activities. It has been a period that has been seized as an opportunity to rethink and recreate together. We have learned to work differently, and should now treasure the positive aspects of this experience: we've had to reinvent and recreate ourselves, sometimes with surprising and constructive results!

During the 75th digital JMI AGA, our members had the chance to share and present their responses to the challenges brought by Covid-19. One thing became clear: we may miss Live Music and the opportunity to gather and connect in a physical space, but we haven't lost sight of our essential mission of making a difference through music and bringing irreplaceable music experiences to Youth and Children.

The Covid-19 creative responses introduced by our members were the following:

  • "Overcoming challenges to bring new hope", Ethno Hope Sessions

In March 2020, Ethno India was ongoing while the global pandemic hit. Luckily, participants were able to reach home safely, but right after several Ethno international events had to be cancelled. In such a situation, the Ethno Committee decided to do something to inspire positivity, hope and sense of community. That's how the idea of the "Ethno Hope Sessions" was born: using the Ethno platform on Facebook, 40 different artists from around the world shared their music, their stories and their cultures. The project was a successful way to explore and create new possibilities and connections, as well as to overcome challenges together.

  • "Concerts in the time of Covid", JM Macedonia

In spring, during the lockdown, JM Macedonia seized the opportunity to provide a digital platform to young musicians who would otherwise never have the chance to perform in front of a public, organising weekly online concerts. Similarly, the organization was able to continue its educational concerts in schools by recording concerts and air them in "virtual classes".

  • "Blending live and online experiences", JM Lebanon

Lebanon was struck with more than a challenge this year: not only the Covid-19 pandemic but also the economical collapse of the country and the destruction caused by the unfortunate "Beirut explosion". Despite this, JM Lebanon was very active to motivate its young musicians through its digital platforms, organising lectures, competitions and digital concerts. The organization also launched two fundraising campaigns, to support families who were particularly affected by the economic crisis and children of a local Cancer Centre. The message is clear: always put the musicians first and motivate and inspire them to use music to help and "heal" the community!

  • "Adapting to music education online" (MC Zimbabwe)

When the lockdown started, MC Zimbabwe started to explore digital alternatives to keep its students and teachers engaged. Combining google and whatsapp platforms, they managed to create an online program that would occupy students for the whole morning, with various classes and workshops. The challenges were many (access to the internet and data, access to devices, etc.) but the online program was nevertheless a big success and allowed the Academy to keep most of its students engaged.

  • "Live Experience, Live Stream sharing", Imagine Netherlands

MPX Production House from the Muziekgieterij in Maastricht is the organizer of the Imagine Music Experience in Netherlands. Faced with the various challenges and limitations of the Covid pandemic, MPX decided to transform the annual Imagine National Final in a digital event. Young musicians were invited to Maastricht, where they still had the opportunity to attend workshops, coaching & studio sessions and to meet and socialize. The climax of the event was of course the live broadcast of the Finals: a positive live experience with live stream sharing, welcomed by both musicians, organisers and jury members!

  • "New learnings: adapting to digital", Konserttikeskus (Finland)

When Covid-19 hit Finland, Konserttikeskus had to cancel around 300 concerts in schools and day-cares, with over 50 artists at risk of unemployment. Thanks to a fundraising campaign, Konserttikeskus was able to raise money to cover the artists' salaries. In autumn, however, when it became clear that live performances were still not feasible, Konserttikeskus had to reinvent its offer for young audiences. The organization ideated "online packages" (including pre-recorded concerts, online materials, live Q&A with artists, etc.) for schools. Thanks to a transnational campaign, supported by all Nordic countries, Konserttikeskus was able to obtain a new deal for the synchronizing licenses necessary to sell such online materials and so far about 30 productions with different ensembles and artists were created, ensuring the connection between musicians and young audiences.

  • "Embracing the New Live experience", JM Canada

With schools closed and no ways to perform there since their partial reopen in the fall, JM Canada wanted to provide relief to families stuck at home with their children and keep its musical initiatives alive within its community. Hence, JM Canada launched online initiatives inspired by its existing programs: home-made videos soon transformed into a digital pilot project for around 40 classes. The general consensus was that the project was fun, accessible and allowed children to experience music from the comfort of their own home. In a matter of weeks, JM Canada planned and offered 3 pre-recorded digital concerts and sets of workshops. Such smart, fun and entertaining online offers allowed to reach even more people and territories that would have not been in the radar in common circumstances: a leap of faith can be sometimes the best idea one could have!

  • "When Live is still Live", Levende Musik i Skolen (Denmark)

In Denmark, the situation has been somehow privileged, with less challenges and limitations posed by the Covid-19 pandemic than in many other countries. Hence, LMS wasn't forced to shift to digital solutions: since summer, the organization has organized close to 2000 concerts for young audiences. This was possible only because of the strong and good network built over the years with the schools, with contact persons and student organizers in most municipalities. The network allowed to get in touch with each other in a fast and efficient way and ensured the quality of the activities organized, despite they had to be adapted to the new situation (bigger rooms, lesser audience, etc.). Creating strong connections and trusting each other definitely proves its worth when things get difficult!

  • "Art for All... online", List Fyrir Alla (Iceland)

List Fyrir Alla is a cultural project for children and youth. Last march, faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization had to stop all its face-to-face activities and instead of moving to live-streaming decided to do something different, giving birth to a new digital project. Collecting artists' videos (music, dance, theatre, etc.) and educational materials, List Fyrir Alla created a digital database accessible to all. And this is only the beginning: the platform is to become an extra to all the events and workshops that the organization normally does.

  • "Beyond Covid-19: a final reflection", Folk Alliance International (US)

Like many organizations, Folk Alliance has been dealing with the impact of the pandemic: had to layoff staff, cancel programs, postpone events and initiate emergency fundraising. Setting asides these challenges, many silverlinings came with these times. Forced to pause and reimagine the standard work-cycle, positive and perhaps overdue reflection, dreaming and innovation has occurred. Who are we if we can't do what we've always done in the way we've always done it? And how can we accomplish our mission in new ways? Are the needs of the community now what we've always done? What to do if our primary income source evaporate? How reliable are the systems we came to rely on? How do we communicate our unique value when everyone is seeking support? All these questions led to more open and collaborative conversations. Thankfully, resilience and creative thinking are key to the work of the Youth and Music sector and this great pause let us all consider how we can connect and create new ways in it. Ultimately, it's been remarkable to see organizations and artists responded to the new challenges: art, once again, proved to be a universal human element, something for all to participate in.

The initiatives launched in each country by JM Members may not be the same we have been doing for the past 75 years but will surely lead to new ways in music. And in the long run, they will ensure we continue bringing music to the youth, giving them the strength and power needed to take ownership of their lives and bring about positive change.