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Sage Cole

Musicians Reflect on the Pandemic

Sage Cole. Photo by Simon Powis

Tell us about your normal, pre-pandemic life:

In addition to being co-director of MSCM, I am on the faculty of Silver Music in New York City, where I teach violin and am the violin/viola coordinator for the school. As we are a Suzuki school, our program includes private lessons as well as Suzuki group classes, and I teach both for a total of about 15-20 hours a week. I also meet with interested families and discuss with them the joys and demands of having your young child study a string instrument–there are an overwhelming amount of demands, but I think the joys outweigh them or I wouldn’t be doing this!

Being an artistic director of MSCM is a year-long commitment as we start planning our summers in October. There are so many facets to organize from the musicians and the music, to the venues, the hosts, and even the transportation for the musicians—including myself. Very few of us own cars, so booking rental cars nice and early is just one of the many mundane tasks we have on our to-do list.

The rest of my time is filled largely with caretaking for my young boys (ages 4 and 20 months). I only had four months as a mother of two before the pandemic hit, so my experience of mothering two is almost completely entwined with shut down life—for better and worse.

Sage with her two boys in NYC

Tell us about how your life changed in March 2020:

As I am not primarily a performer, I was lucky to not lose any work during the shut-down. All of my teaching moved online which was certainly a challenge, but it was such a relief to still have work—particularly as I was surrounded by so many friends who had suddenly lost all of their income.  I felt very grateful, even as I navigated the frustrations of trying to connect with kids as young as four-years-old over Zoom!

Teaching the old fashioned way, pre-pandemic

Did you find solace in music? What kind of music have you been listening to or playing?

My listening was largely dictated by my four year old, Elliott, and it consisted of a heavy rotation of Peter and the Wolf, The Magic Flute, The Nutcracker, and The Music Man. All quite uplifting, so yes, I would say there was solace there!

Were there unexpected silver linings for you amidst the upheaval, anxiety, and loss of the past year?

My family life was a large silver lining. Getting to spend so much time with our kids has been truly wonderful–even as the constant demands of childcare and work in the midst of a pandemic have been exhausting.

Do you have apprehensions about whether people will return to concert halls? What do you think the post-pandemic concert experience might be like?

I think people will come back to the concert halls. I think people are ready to celebrate the success of our vaccinations and enjoy the artistic and social aspects of live performances again. Although the pre-pandemic anxiety of suffering a random coughing attack in the middle of a performance may be quite heightened in the current circumstances! Still, while this year has shown us how much can be accomplished virtually, it’s also highlighted intangibles of live performances—the electricity from the performers, the buzz of the audience, and beauty of the venues—and the excitement of simply not being on your couch!

Read Keith Powers’ article – Artists Alone: Sage Cole, co-founder of Manchester Summer Chamber Music