Food for the Soul During a Pandemic

Ivan Stefanovic, Associate Principal Second Violin

It has now been about eight months since the world changed for everyone, and especially so for musicians. Without being able to play beautiful music together with each other and for our audiences in the same space, in order to feed both our and your souls in that most direct and interactive way, we were left stumped and depressed.

But that couldn’t last long, as our souls need food as much as our stomachs do. After a much needed break from our instruments (our profession is surprisingly hard on the body), we picked them up and started playing again. Scales, exercises, and pieces we haven’t played in a long time rang out from BSO musicians’ houses strewn about gorgeous Baltimore neighborhoods and through our beautiful state of Maryland.

That was necessary and satisfying for a while, but something was missing—the souls and ears of others. So, we bought mics, apps, and other equipment, we shared tips and know-how with each other, and a whole new way of sharing music emerged. Short gems, entire recitals, discussions about music, instrument demonstrations, and many errant kids and cats appeared on our various screens. Most performances were for solo instruments, but quite a few also featured family ensembles in households which are lucky enough to have family members who were also musicians.

My household was lucky to be one of those, as my three sons—Sebastian, a violist at Rice University; Luka, a cellist at Oberlin College; and Tristan, also a cellist at Baltimore School for the Arts—were all home. It didn’t take long for us to prepare not one but two programs featuring various combinations for those instruments (plus viola da gamba, which Luka also plays) and offer them to those needing a respite from the strange new world in which we had all found ourselves. My wife Jennifer made sure the home phones were turned off, that the cats didn’t completely steal the show, and that all was in order for us to produce something of quality in our home, which normally takes a crew of professionals to put together properly.

BSO musicians were more prolific than most other orchestras and kept our audiences entertained for months. But that could only last so long. We are now thrilled to be able to finally play music together in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, that amazing acoustic jewel, and offer you, our audience, as close an experience to the one you used to enjoy what seems like a lifetime ago through our new digital concert series, BSO Sessions. But, let me correct myself…in some ways, this is even closer, as you can see close-ups of our faces and instruments which even the best money couldn’t buy before!

In addition, we are so very happy to see our colleagues and play with them in person, even though with masks on and six feet away from each other, we often can’t understand what the conductor is saying; it’s sometimes hard to catch a breath after a difficult passage; we can’t hear or see each other very well; and we can’t get close to the stand in front of us to catch new markings in the music. I could go on listing the new challenges…those are all so worth it, just knowing that we are recording music, food for all of our souls, which we are finally able to share with you in this new medium.

We still can’t wait for the day, hopefully soon, when we can greet each other in person, look each other in the eyes, gaze at the architecture of the Meyerhoff and Strathmore, and all enjoy the sounds of glorious music at the same time, in the same space, while letting our minds wander together.

Until then, please stay safe and healthy.