Musicians in America during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Project Essay by Holly Hobbs, Raquel Paraíso, and Tamar Sella
Beginning in March 2020, concert halls, nightclubs, schools, places of worship, and other music settings throughout the United States largely turned silent due to stay-at-home orders implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many musicians lost some, if not all, of their sources of income overnight. For the first time in at least a century, Americans experienced what it was like to live in a society almost devoid of music-making in public space. What were the consequences of this sudden transformation for human sociability, communication, inspiration, and performance? What was the impact on the artistry, careers, health, well-being, and economic livelihood of individual musicians?
This digital archive contains 240 short video interviews with musicians associated with diverse communities and music genres throughout the U.S. Conducted during the late summer and fall of 2020, the interviews address these questions, among others, in real time. Collectively, this oral data provides a record of this unprecedented era in American music.
Research Methodologies: Building the Archive
After securing funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the CARES Act economic stimulus bill (passed on March 27, 2020), the Society for Ethnomusicology hired three PhD ethnomusicologists to work on this project: Raquel Paraíso, Holly Hobbs, and Tamar Sella. The project stipulated that each researcher would conduct at least seventy interviews, and that we would interview a cross-section of musicians associated with diverse communities and music genres throughout the U.S. After meeting virtually on August 24, 2020, we began the work of determining criteria to use in creating a list of musicians to approach. First, we generated a broad list of music genres, paying particular attention to inclusivity and diversity. By the summer of 2020, it had become increasingly apparent that the pandemic was impacting people in different ways, depending on their social and economic conditions––especially affecting working class people––and disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color. To that end, criteria for choosing artists included working class socioeconomic status and inclusivity in terms of race and ethnicity. Other criteria for choosing artists were considerations in terms of gender and sexuality as well as cultural and community rootedness.
In terms of regional breakdown, we chose to split the 50 states and D.C. geographically by three, thus dividing the regions of East, Middle and West, as well as the five inhabited U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands) between us. This breakdown resulted in an estimate of three to four musicians per state, which fluctuated slightly in relation to population and artist availability. The result is that each territory has at least one interview, each state at least two, and some of the more populous states as many as nine or ten interviews.
With these broad guidelines in place, we began the process of contacting musicians, each relying on our own personal and professional communities, including public folklorists, other ethnomusicologists, and musicians in our own research networks. The limited timeline of the project meant that we had to move forward with the interviewing process based on a number of factors, including but not limited to musicians’ desire to be interviewed; their interest in this type of project; their access to time, resources, and a stable internet connection; and their access to a computer or phone that was able to accommodate a virtual Zoom call. (While we were open to other virtual technologies, including FaceTime, we chose to use Zoom based upon ease of use and recording capabilities.) One of the main implications of these dynamics is that the project leans heavily urban, since rural areas in the U.S. are underserved by internet infrastructure, and because of the Covid pandemic, we could not ask people to leave their homes in search of better internet at public libraries or cafés. The project also gives weight to those who have better use of technology, which correlates in part to the continued technology/generation gap.
Prior to beginning the interviewing process, we decided that we would strive for consistency across interviews through our choice of questioning. We chose three main organizing questions for each interview: “Please introduce yourself and your music-making”; “How has Covid impacted you as a musician?”; and “What alternative practices, if any, have you shifted toward?” If time allowed, we also asked “What lessons will you take with you from this time?” Beyond these organizing questions, each interview took its own individual shape, and each lasted about fifteen to twenty minutes. Once we completed our interviews, we began the process of editing them into segments of five to six minutes each, highlighting as many of the key points as possible. These edited segments are the videos that comprise the digital archive.
Research Analysis: What Do the Musicians Say, and What Does it Mean?
Across the 240 interviews that comprise this digital archive, the musicians share stories that converge around some experiences and diverge at others. The impact of Covid-19 on musicians ranges across financial and emotional aspects, touching on mental and physical health, on grief, and on family and community life. New and alternative creative practices include live streams, pre-recorded performances, outdoor concerts, informal settings, shows at drive-in theatres, or sometimes a complete stop in musical activity. The musicians also share their reflections on their changing approach to music-making, the lessons they’ve learned, changes they might want to keep with them post-pandemic, and messages for the future.
Across interviews, all musicians describe the swift loss of work they experienced beginning in March of 2020. International tours, local performances, religious services, private lessons, community youth group classes, bar gigs, nightclub parties, theatre shows, recording sessions, entertainment cruises, yearly festivals, and jam sessions all came to a sudden and near complete halt. For many musicians, this resulted in immediate financial insecurity, which forced some to seek service industry and gig economy employment. Others describe the difficult process of attempting to file for and receive unemployment for self-employed workers and the barriers they faced in doing so. (Self-employed workers have a more difficult time filing for unemployment in general, with many differences from state to state.) Furthermore, many musicians do not have traditional pay stubs from a single employer, which is the usual process for filing for unemployment. And for many musicians who operate in subsistence gig economies, as New Orleans brass band artist Aurélien Barnes points out in his interview, they are paid entirely in cash, with no pay stubs, and often no written recording of pay. This results in many musicians being nearly shut out from obtaining any kind of formal assistance.
Similarly, while some bigger concerts and performances may have contracts with cancellation fees and postponement regulations, many smaller gigs are off the record and have no security or backup plan in place. At the same time, a number of musicians interviewed, including Baltimore-based musician and raptivist DDm, highlight that while musicians may be able to adapt and still play virtual shows on their own, it is the venues and venue workers––sound engineers, bartenders, lighting equipment workers, and so on––that have borne the brunt of the financial impact. Many musicians describe the positive impact of local organizations granting emergency relief to artists in the community, or sponsoring individual performances, and reflect on the need for greater care for musicians and artists on a more consistent, sustainable, and wide-ranging level, whether that be through musicians’ unions, formal institutions, or governmental assistance.
Many musicians, like Nashville modern country artist Monty Lane Allen, who has toured as a guitarist for Alan Jackson for many years, point out that “no one stopped to think about what we might do if this all came to an end.” Others, like Hawaiian taiko player Kenny Endo, state: “Art is not simply to entertain or something extra in people’s lives. The performing arts and music have the potential to heal, to transform, to change things, to inspire people, to bring people together.” The fact that, for many, there was no backup plan was a shocking and difficult realization.
Finding other employment has proven difficult for a number of musicians interviewed. Louisiana zydeco artist Corey Ledet points out that he has been a professional touring musician since he was ten years old, and therefore has no non-music work experience or job resume. Other artists have either been able to shift toward teaching or have fallen back on their pre-existing day jobs, and as such have been able to maintain a somewhat more stable income. Examples are collaborative pianist Vincent Fuh, who had to veer toward teaching piano, and Americana musician Jon Dee, who turned to graphic design as a primary source of income.
Still, some musicians describe new opportunities that became available during the pandemic and led to greater financial security. Missouri rapper Steddy P and Atlanta rapper DeCarlo Tatum, Jr., for example, both state that as Black men, they would normally not be able to receive the kind of loan from a formal banking institution that they obtained from the 2020 Covid relief governmental programs. Both artists used these loans to invest in their own careers as musicians, building home music studios and paying bills through the ongoing crisis. Philadelphia musician Dot Levine started their own serenading service, which became widely successful and not only granted them financial stability they had not previously experienced as a solo artist, but also allowed them to hire and support other musicians to participate in the business. Nevada-based DJ Ken Allen reinvented himself and his sound company by offering curbside music services, as did California-based Mexican musicians Hermanos Herrera.
Loss and Grief
In addition to financial insecurity, many musicians interviewed describe the emotional difficulty of suddenly being unable to make music collectively with others or for a live audience, or to connect with fans directly. Raleigh-based psytrance DJ Aria Arus discusses the difficulty of losing safe spaces for community gathering that members of the LGBTQ+ community had created and maintained, including nightclubs and pop-up venues. Musicians who teach youth, especially immigrant youth and youth of color, describe the acute distress caused by the pandemic, relating to increased pressures in changing school environments, online fatigue, and the difficulty of teaching and organizing amid an inequity of resources and anxiety about the virus. Vermont-based musician Aline Mukiza, who organizes Burundian traditional music and dance lessons for young adult women and girls in her community in Chittenden County, expresses the loss of relief and support provided to youth by in-person social and creative outlets.
This lack of community is especially concerning when people are unable to gather and grieve together. A number of musicians interviewed talk about the grief of losing loved ones to the virus or having survived it themselves. Bass player Tarik Shah recalls a single day in the early spring of 2020 when the jazz community across the country lost four musicians to the pandemic, and Harlan County, Kentucky, musician Martha Redbone describes losing twenty elder friends in her music community within the first month of the pandemic. Many artists interviewed describe not knowing exactly what the repercussions of such long-term instability, health concerns, and loss may be, and most express deep concern for their future as musicians.
Many musicians speak to their feelings of depression and despair brought on by the pandemic, and specifically about the loss of community, live performances and audiences, and the therapeutic and healing power of performing music. Many musicians express a loss of a sense of self that comes from playing and performing with others.
At the same time, many musicians welcomed the respite, forced as it may be, from the overly busy and hectic work schedules they maintained prior to the pandemic. One New Orleans R&B artist who declined to be interviewed talked about how Covid had removed the judgement surrounding receiving public assistance and had allowed her to be more choosy about what gigs she would take. She had become very tired, she said, of taking badly paid gigs performing for tourists in bars that were, for her, unhealthy environments. She, for one, welcomed the shift to a new way of doing things. Many artists describe their realization that they had been stretched too thin and had become overworked. Many reported their desire to retain some of the quiet and peace that they have been able to cultivate during the pandemic. In the absence of the usual pace of constantly searching for the next gig, many talk about embracing the quiet and time freed up to stay at home to practice, learn new music, polish skills, or build a home garden. Seattle-based Drag Chanteuse Arnaldo states: “There is beauty in the silence that came with Covid. The world stopped a little bit and we were able to confront ourselves and reevaluate.” While for some musicians the pandemic numbed creativity, for many others it was an opportunity to create and take on projects that they would not have otherwise.
The most immediate shift that took place across the music industry was the turn to virtual and digital space. After “going dark” for a number of weeks, many musicians describe their transition to various online platforms. Some have done live stream performances through Facebook, Instagram or Twitch, some have gathered patrons on Patreon, and others have met for workshops and classes on Zoom. Many describe the different nature of virtual work: turning from party DJ to radio DJ, or from drag performer to a one-woman music video film crew. Some musicians appreciated the opportunity to invest in gear and technology themselves, while others lacked the resources or the ability to do so, as well as the investment of time it entails. Age played a role in musicians’ varying ability to shift their music-making online; and as stated above, rural lack of access to the internet in America has meant that rural musicians are not nearly as able to avail of online music-making opportunities as others.
Many musicians recall that, with the virtual shift, not only did competition increase but so too the requests to give music away for free. In other words, their profession increasingly became treated as a hobby. Many describe the need to quickly figure out how to safeguard their work while finding ways to both convince people that their music was still valuable and to obtain technological solutions for receiving pay. Indeed, for performers known less for their name and more for their affiliation with certain venues and time slots, such as drag performers or pub and restaurant musicians, this proved especially challenging.
All artists interviewed report that performing online is very different from performing in person. While some musicians state that they enjoyed virtual performance, nearly all mourn the loss of energy exchange and instantaneous feedback from other musicians and the audience, which they describe as some of the most rewarding and central aspects of music-making. As bomba and plena player Tito Matos stated, “Music needs physical presence, it needs those hearts beating while the drum is reverberating… human beings are not made to be in isolation.” For musicians like Seattle-based Lesli Wood, guitarist and frontperson for her band Skates!, streaming shows does not make sense, as their live shows feed directly from their audience’s energy and interaction. Some musicians express concern that without these key elements, the nature of their music will begin to change over time. Seattle-based blues and ragtime guitarist Del Rey fears that online performances and teaching may become a more permanent reality. “It is not the real thing. It is a substitute. But you know, if you eat substitute food long enough, you forget what real food tastes like,” she said.
Many musicians interviewed report that they made up some lost income with virtual teaching and that requests to teach students online have increased during the pandemic. Others describe a sharp decline in their student numbers. New Hampshire-based Scottish bagpiper Lezlie Webster, for example, describes a sixty percent drop in students, citing their lack of access to external studio spaces and their inability or lack of interest in practicing such an instrument in their own homes. Throughout the interviews, many musicians share their adjustments to teaching virtually. Shin-Yi Yang, a Massachusetts-based guqin player, and Dewa Berata, a Los Angeles-based gamelan player, both regret their inability to teach many techniques online because of the need for hands-on teaching. Still other teachers describe attempting to develop techniques of call-and-response or facilitating mutual playing by having all musicians except one mute themselves on the software while playing collectively. Every musician interviewed seems to have developed their own workarounds and short-term solutions to the inadequacies of teaching online, some more successfully than others.
At the same time, many musicians interviewed note that they have celebrated the opportunity to teach, learn from, and play with others in time zones across the world thanks to the absence of the barriers of physical space. Keith Jones, a New Jersey hip-hop artist who is also an organizer around issues of disabilities in the arts, talks about the readiness he saw to switch to online platforms during the pandemic in stark contrast to the earlier resistance faced by the disabled community, which has been advocating for increasing accessibility through virtual platforms for years. He further expresses his concern about the industry’s return to live performance during the pandemic in an “at your own peril” fashion, which would leave musicians and performers with disabilities especially vulnerable. Several musicians state that they plan to keep Zoom and other video call software as a way to reach more people around the world, to invite guest musicians virtually to classes, or to retain video streaming features for festivals during live events.
As the early months of the pandemic moved on, musicians described the shift toward live performances in outdoor and regulated spaces. Many discuss the disadvantages in socially distant outdoor performance. Hip-hop artist Akua Naru, for example, describes a performance in a drive-in theatre, where audience members couldn’t fully participate as they normally would in the call-and-response she identifies as the essence of a hip-hop performance. This is a concern expressed by a number of Black musicians interviewed, who said that without the standard call-and-response of their various music genres, performance was difficult.
Genre is also an issue in outdoor settings. While jazz violinist Randy Sabien reports that he is able to effectively perform outdoors, Tampa-based heavy metal musician Giani Martinez says that “no one wants to go see my kind of music performed in a flower garden.” For Giani and the type of music he and his friends like to write and perform, the setting has everything to do with performance.
Some community musicians express sadness and regret for not being able to play at funerals, church services, or ritual community events, like the Nashville-based spiritual group the McCrary Sisters. San Francisco-based jazz musician Kai Lyons reports challenges in negotiating public spaces when discontented neighbors filed noise complaints that led to the shutting down of performances enjoyed by others.
Many musicians describe performing in the outdoor protests, rallies, and vigils that took place across the country in 2020 against police brutality and for racial justice. Rochester R&B singer Danielle Ponder describes becoming increasingly involved with and performing at the protests against the Rochester police killing of Daniel Prude. Two Minneapolis-based hip-hop artists interviewed, Dessa and Dwynell Roland, describe what it was like living in the center of the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd. D.C. singer Montanette “Mooody” Miller of the go-go band Suttle Squad recalls the band’s performance on a float among tens of thousands of people in the capital’s large-scale protest against police brutality. Louisville musician Sasha Renee describes the many small and large performances she organized and participated in across the city in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor. Indeed, as stated above, many artists interviewed point to the fact that we are not merely living in the midst of a health pandemic, but also intersecting social pandemics of racism, police brutality, and oppression.
Re-examining Relationships to Music
While many musicians worked to adjust, some describe turning away from music in the months following the pandemic. Many share their experiences struggling with physical and mental health challenges due to the life changes caused by Covid-19. Some musicians who have jobs outside of music describe transferring work inquiries to their fellow musicians who they know are facing more insecurity. Brooklyn-based DJ Thanu Yakupitiyage (aka “DJ Ushka”) mentions redirecting opportunities to her Black colleagues following the 2020 summer uprisings. Some reaffirm their relationship to social justice. For example, Oakland-based Latin jazz percussionist John Santos states that musicians and artists bear the task of bringing to the forefront the power of music as a tool for social change and social justice.
Many musicians voice their hope, endurance, resilience, resistance, power, and presence through music. Others describe taking the time to reflect deeply on the motivation behind their own creative work over time. Some express gratitude for their “social capital” as musicians and their support from communities of fellow musicians, friends, and followers. Still others talk about the need for flexibility: “No matter what the situation is that we are faced with, if it is Covid or anything that you are personally dealing with, the goal is to always be able to conquer it, because as musicians we are always faced with the unknown, like life changes, and we have to adjust,” Dallas hip-hop artist Toni Hickman says. Across the board, a majority of artists note that adaptability and improvisation are key to their identities as musicians, and that they have called upon these skill-sets to assist them in learning to navigate 2020’s increasingly complex landscape.
Innovations and Moving Forward
Many musicians interviewed have innovative ideas about ways to move forward during the restructuring of the industry that has taken place during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the overarching themes that appeared across interviews was that many musicians noted that they have begun to return to the “old ways of doing things.” Some suggest a return to late nineteenth/early twentieth century vaudeville-style traveling circuits or small cabaret performances, for example, in which musicians do residency-like performances with multiple sets per night in front of smaller audiences. Other New Orleans musicians have already begun turning to the Social Aid and Pleasure Club social structure, where historically, community members pooled resources to pay for the communal needs of their members, including funeral funds, rent, food, and other needs. Similarly, co-ops have begun to spring up throughout the American South, where small venues, arts organizations, and cultural activist networks have begun combining their resources in order to help navigate community members through times of financial distress and need. In New Jersey, local musicians formed networks of support through virtual groups, in which they created mutual accountability for music practice and encouraged each other to apply for local grants and funds. Los Angeles-based musician César “Jarochelo” Castro stated: “I have looked for ways to support colleagues financially. It is a support chain: if you see water running and you are not thirsty then you do not drink it, and if you are a little thirsty, then grab a glass and let it run.” Other musicians have expressed experiencing a stronger sense of solidarity and community than they had prior to the pandemic.
Extreme conditions force people to be creative, improvise, and adapt. New and alternative creative practices include live streams, pre-recorded performances, outdoor concerts, informal settings, shows at drive-in theatres, or sometimes a complete stop in musical activity. Some baroque musicians interviewed turned to performing in parks using hand-held microphones, even when the sound quality was not ideal. Denver-based baroque violinist and folk musician Carla Sciaky offered driveway concerts and developed a series of Zoom concerts called “Concept Concerts” in which, in each concert, she sang songs according to a chosen theme. Iowa City-based classical violinist Miera Kim reported that since her husband and two children were all classical musicians, they were able to begin producing weekly family performances online, which received a welcome reception from other community members. Other musicians began to offer performances, either in-person or virtually, for community members sick and in the hospital. Musician and humanitarian Luc Reynaud developed a virtual tour program to bring music to hospitals virtually through a laptop or a TV screen. Florida-based guitarist Jason Hedges performs in his local Gainesville hospital for people who are bedridden and are in need of encouragement and the healing power of music.
Another key theme that arose across interviews was a general sentiment that there is an increasing need to redirect attention and resources from the global to the local. Some musicians suggest that national institutions with big arts and culture budgets redirect their attention to local communities, at least in part reallocating their funds to local bands where they might have previously been dedicated entirely to one major touring artist.
Other musicians suggest the need for collaborative relationships between venues and musicians in order to achieve safe and equitable pay for both workers and artists under limited capacity venue re-openings. A Durham, North Carolina, venue called Pinhook, a central establishment in the music scene, has partnered with local artists in creating community classes that help to generate income for both the venue and the artists as well as to reignite the community relationships previously fostered through physical performance in the venue.
Attention to inequities in access to the internet and technology is another common theme that many musicians interviewed have begun to work to address. Fox, Arkansas-based musician Rachel Reynolds founded the People’s Library Project as a way to help provide free access to the internet and computers at the public library in her rural community. Reynolds’s community has also begun to host old-time play parties, which include potluck dinners and performances outdoors. New Haven musician Annalisa Boerner describes the strengthening of community relationships that took place when her organization, Music Haven, expanded from primarily teaching to also providing aid, computers and devices, and sometimes groceries to students and their families.
Some artists, including older musicians, musicians with disabilities, and immunocompromised musicians, express concern about who may be able to participate in live performances moving forward. Violinist Gaelynn Lea noted that the shift to virtual performance is actually better for her because, as a musician with a disability, she previously had a difficult time navigating the requirements of travel and touring. For many musicians, the shift to virtual performances has already irreversibly altered performance practice. One longtime D.C. go-go band, for example, upon seeing the potential exposure of the local genre to faraway audiences, has decided to continue to incorporate an element of virtual performance alongside its live shows. Other musicians welcome change from the nighttime bar scene, which had kept them playing in bars late into the night for years, and express hope that they might be able to restructure their communities to include a different kind of earlier and healthier performance structure.
Most musicians interviewed noted that they are looking forward to the wealth of music that they are sure will come pouring out in life post-pandemic.
In music, as elsewhere, we see clearly that the pandemic has had two simultaneous effects: it has reached everyone equally and impacted everyone differently. Several key points arose from this research. One central theme apparent in our interviews is the idea of energy exchange: that is, the idea that interpersonal energy is a powerful phenomenon and that its exchange between artist and audience is a central and fundamental aspect of music-making. Without this energy exchange, as many artists pointed out, the process of performing music begins to change over time, and the reality of performance begins to become draining for many artists, rather than fulfilling. Further, as Washington, D.C.-based saxophonist Tissa Khosla points out, there is something to the phenomenon of “embodiment,” or the ways in which the vibrations, bass, and frequencies of live music affect the actual body. As Khosla states, “now that I haven’t felt that feeling for a long time, I’m starting to think that it might be extremely important.”
The ways in which differently employed musicians were impacted shows the aspects of music-making valued by the current economy. Musicians who had, for various reasons, already been more “versatile,” had previously invested in multiple streams of income, or weren’t solely reliant on performing managed to maintain some stability of income. Older musicians and side musicians, across interviews, seemed to be particularly affected. Many musicians reported that it has been easier, in many ways, for younger musicians, as they are already well adapted to working within the software app and online economy. For side musicians, the realities of Covid have been particularly difficult, noted Wallace Lester, a drummer who toured extensively with North Mississippi Hill Country blues artist Reverend John Wilkins before he died of Covid complications in Fall 2020. As a side musician, Lester stated that he was not able to do live-streamed performances online (“who wants to sit around and watch me play drums by myself?”).
Inequitable access to resources across America has resulted in many artists being almost entirely shut out of 2020’s new socially distant and virtual reality. For some, this inequity refers to access to space and equipment. For many in certain areas, this is not only an issue of inability to pay for internet, but rather the complete lack of infrastructure to provide internet coverage in the first place.
Another key theme is the breakdown of collaborative learning and performance. This was experienced by all musicians, and especially with regards to intergenerational interaction. As Nesby Phips, New Orleans native and grandnephew of Mahalia Jackson discusses, learning from elders is a centrally important way for younger musicians to learn traditional music and culture in New Orleans. Now that there is serious concern regarding contact with elders for fear of infecting them with Covid, musicians have begun to see the disintegration of this centuries-old way of musical and cultural learning.
Another central theme across interviews is the ongoing breakdown of music as a profession in general, which has only been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. As Kansas luthier Steve Mason puts it, “Covid is in many ways the last nail in the coffin for musicians as a profession.” He points to poor pay, expectations of performing for free or for trade, the devaluation of professionalism across the industry, the increasing use of technology to simulate musical performance on instruments rather than live instrument performance and training, and the decreasing amount of attention and respect for instrumental virtuosity as evidence of this ongoing shift. Indeed, these changes highlight the already precarious state musicians were in prior to the pandemic. As West Virginia singer Doris Fields (aka “Lady D”) says of her life as a musician, “I was making poverty look good long before this pandemic happened.”
Broadly, across all interviews, musicians often note the globalization that virtual music-making allowed as well as the need for increasing attention and support for local, community-based music-making. As First Nation Oklahoma/Kansas musician Elexa Dawson says, a shift toward support for local musicians and increased regional identity “branding” by local organizations, instead of spending a full budget on attracting one major label artist to perform one show, would do much to change the dynamics of a community.
As artists of interpretation, improvisation, adaptation, and reflection, musicians have much to teach us about navigating through life in an era of profound social change. As community leaders, musicians can teach us about the importance of collective memory and shared human experience. Musicians also have much to teach us about labor in 2020 and continue to offer warnings about the increasing demands made on “gig economy” workers in this era and the problematics involved as we continue to shift toward increased virtual labor. Finally, as agents of social change, musicians can teach us about inequities and struggles for economic, environmental, and racial justice. Above all, musicians remind us of the healing power of music.