By Oliver Contreras, Washington Post | For the past four years, Washington-area photographer Oliver Contreras has been performing as a percussionist with local bands at small gatherings, bars, festivals and fundraisers. Over the years, he has met a variety of full-time musicians from different backgrounds, coming to a better understanding of how they make a living doing what they’re passionate about.
With the pandemic halting live performances, tours and recording sessions, the vulnerabilities that full-time musicians face have never been clearer. Most are independent contractors with few labor
protections and little savings to fall back on. Without being able to do the thing they love most — simply playing in front of an audience and sharing their art with the public — their professional lives are at risk, and their futures in limbo. In the meantime, they try to make do by practicing at home or performing online for virtual audiences.
Contreras photographed several of these musicians, and through his portraits, he conveys the uncertainty of this moment, and asks us to reconsider the importance of music in our daily lives and what its presence — or absence — means. He asked each the same question: “How has the pandemic affected your life as a musician?”
Read the full comments from each of the following performers in the original WP article:
● Elena Lacayo, a bilingual singer-songwriter and instrumentalist outside her home in Washington’s Petworth neighborhood on May 19.
“I am a full-time musician with multiple projects, including leading my own band, playing as a solo musician and touring as a guitarrón player with the female Mariachi group Flor de Toloache. Professionally, the crisis has hit me hard — all of my shows and tours have been canceled or postponed for the foreseeable future, wiping my calendar clean for what would have been my most exciting and lucrative year as a musician to date. While I deeply miss touring and performing for live audiences, I’m doing my best to use this time to stay creative, work on new skills and projects that are tailored to an online format, and stay grateful for all that I have.”
● Ray Lamb, a musician, server, student and teacher outside his apartment building in the Eckington neighborhood on April 26.
● Allyson Goodman, principal violist with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and the Washington National Opera, and her husband, Derek Powell, staff sergeant and violinist in the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” outside their apartment building in the Adams Morgan neighborhood on April 29.
● Santo Buzzanca, musician, educator and director of Crush Funk Brass Band, performing with his bandmates in Georgetown on May 24.
● Chandra Cervantes, a freelance musician, with her son Augie, 11, outside their home in Silver Spring, Md., on April 28.
● G.L. Jaguar, guitarist and music director of Exotiq Int’l, former guitarist of Priests and co-founder of Sister Polygon Records, on the rooftop of his apartment building in the 16th Street Heights neighborhood on May 21.
● Fairouz Foty, a professional opera singer and artistic director of Quartertonez Music, outside her apartment building in Chevy Chase, D.C., on May 27.
● Laura Harris, musician, outside her home in the North Michigan Park neighborhood on May 21.
● Pepe Gonzalez, performing artist/educator, outside his home in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood on April 26.
Stories Worth the Read: Contributions from Board Member Jamie Krutz