As many people around the world hunker down in isolation, performing artists find themselves in uncharted territory. With no upcoming performances to practice for, how are they managing their time? Does creativity take over when boredom sets in?
Jaroslaw Lis, a Connecticut violinist and teacher, is making the best of his new homebound reality.
Like many high-caliber orchestra musicians, Lis has more than one job. He isn’t just the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Assistant Principal second violin, he’s also the symphony’s personnel manager.
And he teaches -- a lot.
Not only does Lis teach violin and general music courses at Connecticut College, he also teaches private lessons at the Hartt School Community Division and from his own studio at his home in West Hartford. He also coaches chamber music ensembles at Trinity College.
While symphony performances are on hold, Lis has been focusing on teaching. He said providing his violin students with the structure they need during this time has been a pleasure, and the switch to teaching remotely through video conference seems to be mostly working out.
“My initial experience has been better than I anticipated,” said Lis. “It’s a little bit strange to look at the screen to connect with your student, and of course you have to speak a little bit louder. The instructions have to be steplike to be understood. Other than that, I’ve noticed that some of my students are a little bit more attentive, and they are really trying their best.”
Soon, Lis will take on a new online teaching challenge -- instructing an entire chamber group of musicians from Trinity College, where each player will check in remotely.
Lis said he’s been enjoying the time at home, spending time with his family, and reconnecting with friends online. Lis is also doing something he never usually has time for -- making music for his own pleasure.
“Yes, I actually have been practicing more and playing. And even with my wife, Malgosia, who's a pianist,” said Lis. “Normally we are so busy ourselves that we never, ever play music together in the evening, but the last two nights we’ve been sight-reading some new music. It’s definitely a nice thing to be able to do, to play with my partner.”
Lis also has had time to indulge in his nonmusical hobbies -- like baking bread and posting about it on Facebook.
When Connecticut Public Radio talked to Lis last week, it was right after the devastating news that the Metropolitan Opera had used a clause in the orchestra and chorus’s contract to let musicians go. Lis hopes the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will not follow suit.
“I just hope the management of the orchestra can think of creative ways to stay engaged,” said Lis. “Musicians are just one of the many groups that will be affected heavily by this pandemic, but ultimately, I hope people can come together in this time.”