In early March, I was two weeks into a West Coast tour with my band Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead. For me, this was a special tour, considering I organized it myself to promote my upcoming album Legacy Holder [release date May 15, 2020]. Out of nowhere, the COVID-19 swiped through the United States, causing an abrupt end to not only my tour, but daily routines and operations.
I learned quickly how serious this matter was when gigs and tours that were planned months in advance were now being cancelled. Legacy Holder album-release shows, Auvisa Drum festival, summer European tour with Pat Metheny, fall European tour with Vision Ahead, local New York gigs, and recording sessions…. Cancelled.
Can I recover from all of this?
What do I do now?
Do what I do best—improvise and make the very best with what I have.
As I began to experience days of being quarantined, and now have the schedule of a college student on summer vacation, I knew I had to go through the process of this pandemic with the right perspective
I’m not displaced—I’m repositioned.
A lot of the times, we focus on what we’ve lost from this pandemic—not realizing that what we already have can help us get through this situation. In a time like this, maybe this is the perfect opportunity to release music. Thankfully, my second album was already scheduled to be released this spring.
Legacy Holder is eight tracks of original music, and it’s a continuation of my musical direction as a drummer and bandleader. With this album, you’ll witness Jonathan Barber the composer. Yes, there are drum solos in Legacy Holder, but more importantly, I was intentional with the mood and shape of each song. When I compose songs, I like to create a journey from the beginning to the end. This approach makes me serve the music, and be mindful of how certain musical choices effect what’s coming next, and how the next section is being introduced. I feel inspired not just by how I sound as an individual, but, collectively, how my band Vision Ahead sounds.
Now, this message isn’t making light of the struggle, grief, and anxiety that COVID-19 has caused. As we carrying on from this situation, here are four things that we can effectively use to keep our creative spirit, musically and mentally.
What are you giving your attention to? Pay attention to things that motivate, inspire, and enlighten you. Listen to a new album a day, or pick a drummer and check out the recordings that drummer has been a part of.
Taking a break is also useful. Giving your mind an opportunity to clear itself, and to focus on the positive, not the negative.
Learn Something New
Drummers—whether it’s soloing, learning rudiments, working on different grooves, or incorporating other instruments to our normal setup, we have the time to research and get better at what we want to learn. Spend time on what you don’t know, but do want to learn. Think about the music, as well—don’t focus on just the drums.
Make Good Decisions
This is where our improvisation skills won’t just be used for the bandstand. Again, you have to be real with yourself, and figure out what are the best decisions to maintain your craft and your musical foundation. Location, access to your instrument, technology tools, being accessible (virtually), creating content/product, and a providing a service are key things you have to consider on how this best applies to you.
Since enduring this pandemic, I’ve spent time in my hometown of Windsor, Connecticut regrouping and a creating strategy for moving forward. Thus far, I’ve been giving lessons and master classes to drummers all over the world—thanks to Zoom and Skype. As some may know, this year I joined the legendary Ludwig Drums. Recently, I received a beautiful vintage-bronze mist Classic Maple kit—which sounded amazing right out the box. I’ve taken this time to dive back in with Sunhouse Percussion, which have opened my interests about creating various solo presentations.
Be thankful for what you have. Embrace it, and don’t stop creating!
Although obstacles may change, the vision remains the same. Music will never die, and we all get to participate in the continuum of music and it’s relation to the world.
Now Drum to THAT!
(Found on ON THE BEAT / MODERN DRUMMER)