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'Piano man' Phenomenon

Writing about pianos on a brass band blog, whatever next?!

I know the song 'Piano Man' by Billy Joel pretty well, but recently it's really struck a chord with me (pardon the pun) and got me thinking. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, click below to listen and you will understand why.

The part that started the cogs in my brain is in the last verse when the 'piano man' says:

‘It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday

And the manager gives me a smile

'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see

To forget about life for a while’

Apparently, the people mentioned in the song aren't real people, but the beauty of this song and the sentiment behind is that they could be. The song tells the story of their problems, from being stuck in an unfulfilling job to loneliness and how the Piano Man's role is to help them forget about their issues for a moment. Now that I have been away from the stage and its audience and Billy has planted a seed in my head, I have been thinking about our banding audiences. Most of us have been an audience member at some point, at a band gig in a village hall or church, or maybe an act that is a bit more 'trendy' in an arena with pyrotechnics or something a bit more cultural in a theatre. We know how it feels to lose ourselves in the magic of music and entertainment. The freedom of it. The excitement of it.

Rough Translation

I like to avoid politics on this blogs, if I can, because, quite frankly, there are more interesting things to write about in the world than a bunch of people in suits flinging insults at each other. However, an MP naively (or ignorantly you can choose which), recently made the statement that jobs in the arts are 'unviable'. I'm going to play interpreter for a moment and attempt to translate what I think this person meant. There is a reason the press have a field day with some of the things politicians say, as despite the private education they are likely to have received, they seem to have difficulty expressing themselves effectively. I've heard children express a point more eloquently - I digress.

In the current climate, I know that, in the eyes of the government, they have bigger fish to fry with supporting the NHS through this pandemic and trying to navigate a recession, compared with making it possible for the arts industry to start up again. Yes, I did use the word industry as, if we're talking pounds and pence, the arts does bring a lot of money in through ticket sales, tourism, hospitality facilities and hotels and sales of film/music etc. I know the government have a lot of big hurdles to manoeuvre, but somehow, someway it needs to be addressed and this is why.

The Piano Man Phenomenon

I'm going to introduce a concept. Some sciency person may already have a name for it, but I've created this explanation so I'm calling it the 'Piano Man Phenomenon'. It isn't one-sided with a literal performer or 'piano man' that simply provides musical relief for the audience. It is a two-way relationship that allows both performer and audience member to break their bonds to this, sometimes, dark and worrying world we live in and escape to somewhere more beautiful for an hour or two. Yes, we have to work a bit harder as the performer as we have to provide the performance, but creating music allows us to also 'forget about life for a while'. Both the audience and ourselves will walk into the venue with problems, worries, negative emotions, but for a couple of hours we have an opportunity to help the audience and ourselves.

A plea

If the arts go, where do we go to escape? Years ago, music was an escape for me, then factors beyond my control caused it to become a source of anxiety and panic. In the last 18 months or so, not only did it become my escape again, it became my saviour and I'm not being dramatic when I say this. My banding and everything that came with it became a source of support and a shield, when everything around me became difficult to deal with. It has improved my confidence. It has brought people into my life, that I don't just want to spend time with - I need to spend time with them! I am devastated to find that the thing that saved me has now, again due to factors out of my control, become a source of worry. I'm desperate to return to bandroom, but at the same time I'm terrified of the potential consequences. Is it worth the risk at the moment, when the consequences can be fatal, not necessarily for me, but for those around me? Once we are allowed to return, is there a chance that this could be knocked back due to lockdown measures being enforced again. How many contests, bands, band members are we going to lose? I don't have the answers, but I do have a plea.

This virus isn't going away, but we need to take action. How many thousands are there in this community? Enough to start making a difference. I'm going to start by following the rules the best I can, wearing a mask, social distancing, washing or santising my hands. I'm going to avoid Spotify for a bit and instead look at independent bands, musicians and artists for recordings, merch, products I can buy to support them. I can't do this alone though. I'm begging you. You may not want to believe everything the media tells you. You may argue that the deaths 'aren't as bad as they seem' (isn't all death as bad as it seems?!) or that the facts are skewed. You may feel the government controls you. If this is something that is preventing you from doing the right thing - here is a quick reality check for you. You know that facebook account you're using to share so-called 'statistics that prove Covid-19 isn't that bad'? If you don't want to be controlled by the government, get rid of it - they can see everything you do. If you have a smart phone, an email address, any social media accounts, a national insurance number or a bank account and you're worried about the government 'controlling' you by asking you to wash your hands and wear a face covering to stop the spread of a disease - I hate to be indelicate, but honestly, a carrot has a higher IQ than you, dear.

At the moment, the biggest things we can do are try to help contain this virus by sticking to the rules the best that we can, continue to keep our movement alive with online events and try to support independent musicians, bands (of both brass and non-brass variety), artists and anyone else in the arts industry as much as we can.

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