All posts by Crystal Flintrop

Musicians face the music with COVID-19 crisis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many states are under quarantine or a stay-at-home order. This has caused most public events to be canceled.

Only essential personnel, including emergency workers and grocers, are able to work.

What about musicians that relied on public events to support themselves?

How are small bands trying to maintain or grow their public audience while respecting orders to stay isolated?

Two years ago, In Brooklyn, New York, twins Talor and Jordan Steinberg started their band, The Moon City Masters.

Talor Steinberg, a vocalist and electric guitarist, talked about what they are doing to keep their music alive.

“Our band is in that stage where we’re trying to get as many people to see us as we can,” Steinberg said.

They’ve taken their artistry to social media. One of the most successful uses of social media has been on Tik Tok, a video-sharing app which launched in 2016 in China.

The brothers posted a video on Christmas doing a cover of “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin on Tik Tok and got around 30,000 followers in a week.

“It is honestly the best thing for our band,” Steinberg said. “We have 70 thousand followers. If all of them look up our music, that would be life-changing. We get a couple of thousand streams a week because of Tik Tok and it doesn’t result in any money, but we still get to have our Moon City Masters passion.”

According to Steinberg, because of the income he gets from teaching guitar lessons, he was able to pay rent and still “be comfortable.”

The brothers did a livestream on Instagram and Tik Tok at the beginning of April and have plans to do it every month for the foreseeable future.

“The cool thing is we got to play for people all over the country,” Steinberg said. “We get a lot of requests to play in Florida and all over the Midwest that we would need to make more money to do so and it was just cool to play for them because I don’t know when we’d get to do it in person.”

Steinberg said he read comments from fans in Russia and Ukraine.

1,099 miles away, in Winona, Minnesota, a small-town band is dealing with similar things.

Spencer Klausing, Tyler Steinley and Jackson Nielsen of Afflatus discussed how Minnesota’s stay-at-home order has affected them.

Photo submitted by Afflatus of the members performing.

“All our shows have been cancelled and we haven’t been practicing keeping distance from each other,” Steinley, the drummer, said. “It’s come to a standstill for the most part.”

According to Steinley, the group isn’t livestreaming on social media but, they have “talked about it, but nothing yet.”

“I play in three groups and we were all getting prepared for a busy festival season of playing shows outdoors for huge crowds. Summer is my favorite time of year and I just love playing outdoor gigs,” Nielson, the bass guitarist, said. “All we can do is make the best out of a bad situation. Hopefully, we can get a tour going in the fall and play out a little bit.”

The members of Afflatus admitted they don’t make money from playing as it is more for the sake of performing right now.

Steinley gave advice to other bands. “Do what you want during this time. It’s the perfect opportunity to focus on creativity and being productive,” Steinley said. “Also the perfect time to rest and take a break from everything if that’s what you feel like that’s what you need.”

What Winona State University does for the community

Everyone always talks about what communities do for universities but not what the universities do for communities.

Winona is no stranger to that.  It is a thriving community with plenty of support for the three colleges and universities in the area.

At Winona State University there are at least 180 cubs and student organizations on campus. These range from sports clubs, Greek life, academic clubs, honorary societies, faith-based clubs and diversity organizations.

For most of these clubs and organizations, community service and philanthropy work is a significant part of how those clubs run.

The president of the university, Scott Olson, said, “First and foremost, community engagement is a great way for students to learn. It allows us to put theory into practice and allows students to try out different settings and professions to see how they might dedicate their lives.”

One subset of campus organizations where community service is an important aspect to is Greek life.

Lindsay Marosi-Kramer, an activities director on campus, said, “Our seven organizations all have both national and local philanthropies, many groups require students to host volunteer hours while not many have actual relationships with outside places like Greek groups do.”

According to Marosi-Kramer, during the 2018-2019 school year, the Greek community volunteered more than 800 hours in community services.

Students can walk off most WSU sidewalks and be in neighborhoods or in close proximity to local businesses.

Some community members have opposing opinions when it comes to living in a town with three colleges.

A Winona man who lives nine blocks east of campus, who wished to remain anonymous, said he didn’t appreciate having college students as neighbors.

He has lived in Winona his whole life and only left when he went to college.

“It’s not that I hate college students,” the man said. “I just don’t like living with around them.”

He brought up how high school and college students would leave garbage on his lawn or how loud college student neighbors are.

He said it was extremely difficult to find housing since “20 percent of each block” was rented to students or would only be rented to students.

“I do appreciate there are students and groups who will go around and clean up the garbage, especially after big events,” he said.

Kendra Weber, WSU’s director of Student and Community Engagement, arranged the clean and sweep after homecoming.

“If we know a certain amount of this is going to happen, what can we do?” Weber said.

The first year she held this event, around 30 people showed up and they ended with around 40 bags of garbage.

In 2018, the event had about 90 people sign up to pick up trash and more than 100 participants showed up.

An event like this has both community and university involvement. Weber directs the event and buys pizza for students who volunteer. The American Legion has allowed the group to use their space for free and the city allocates certain stop signs for the group to set the bags of garbage.

Chart from that covers the financial benefits and engagement that is done between the community and Winona State University.

Olson has had community members reach out to him regarding students.

“Most of the comments I get from members of the community are very complimentary to WSU students, Olson said. “Probably the largest volume of negative comments I hear are about students walking across Main or Huff without looking up at the traffic, but I only hear this a dozen times a year or less. There are often concerns around Homecoming, but lately students have really been careful to be safe and respectful while having fun.”

In 2013, the university applied to get the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching.

To be considered for this classification, the university had to have proof of engagement and co-existing with the community.

In 2015, Winona State University was awarded the Community Engagement Classification.