I sort of miss driving.

Husband Davy bought a new car in February, after planning the purchase for awhile. He filled the tank after leaving the dealership. He has just refilled the tank, and it’s mid-May.

Being on leave this year, I did lose the 8 hours of weekly driving going back and forth to Bangor to teach, but that driving got replaced by some serious mileage to gigs further away than usual. So, I still had the experience of here-I-am-in-the-car-can’t-be-productive-so-podcasts! Particularly in the late fall and early winter.

My welcome to northern Georgia after driving 11 hours in December..


But of course, everything planned post March 10 has been cancelled, put on hold, or made virtual in whatever way it can be.  I’m lucky in that freelancing is a pretty small part of my financial life, and so compared to many musicians my own work life has been more continuous and less scary (though who knows what will happen with state universities over the next few years..).

The projects I’d planned on working on are still there, and I can work on them just fine being here. And only here.

But the way I use what used to be “down time” feels different. While I listen to podcasts, there’s a sense that I should be doing something more out of the box, something I would not have done in pre-COVID times. My attempts so fair have verged on the silly – drafting a comic scene about interior designers in a pandemic (which is now on the back burner, as it’s not funny enough yet) and really silly –   bought some roller skates and started to work out how not to fall down. Falling while skating feels like falling from a greater height than you’d think. Not sure this exercise will become a real routine, and it’s certainly not something I can do simultaneously while listening to NPR podcasts explain things to me, at my current technical level (i.e. working on not falling down).

The driveway can be a dangerous place.


The podcasts that I would normally use to get away from work are of course built by people who are now also distracted by the current weirdness, and so they are not as much of a vacation experience as they used to be – not a dig, just an observation.

I’ve also turned more to the smaller projects that have popped up instead of spending more of the available time on the larger plans I already had for the spring. It does feel productive to be able to check off something as finished, even when it’s small.

A few of these projects were part of the new COVID19 world of compilation videos. I played on a couple of these, and appreciated that the instructions given by both ensembles were clear and accessible to most musicians with the equipment they already had. One of these compilations is still in process, but a short Mozart piece lead by Hugh Sung was one of the first out on YouTube after everything shut down.

School also wanted some “content” to keep people engaged from afar, so I wound up making a short clip for the McGillicuddy Humanities Center at UMaine, which was connected to one of my own medium-sized projects. Two birds with one stone there.

And I did actually finish that project in April, so perhaps the video helped push that along.


The most fun of the smaller projects was an adaptation of Eve Beglarian’s piece Play Like a Girl. Eve has a few variations of this work, mainly for piano, percussion, or toy piano and combinations thereof. I started with one of the toy piano variations, changed registers for the clarinet, and added some reverb to get the harmonic sustain that the toy piano would have had naturally. I think it turned out well, and Eve put it online this month as part of her Book of Days project:

“Play like a windy girl”


There have been other things for school (videos to replace now-closed summer music camps programs, etc.) But now it’s time to get back to the bigger projects that I let slide for a few weeks. I’m going to use a virtual mentor to help, from the new version of Project Runway – a virtual positive influence:



Though he could just as easily be a more prodding kind of influence –

(From Linda Holmes’ twitter feed):

“I am living for Christian Siriano saying “You are *killing* me” about all the blue tulle on Project Runway.

He’s like, “Nothing? No options? Nothing besides tulle? Nothing besides this? Really? Nothing?” 


I’m ready.

Author: beth wiemann

Beth teaches composition and clarinet at the University of Maine in Orono, ME. She also spends time in Massachusetts with her husband, David Rakowski, and in her Subaru going back and forth on Routes 95 and 93.

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