These past weeks have been a time of uncertainty, adaptation, and change. Despite our best efforts, each day situations and questions arise that catch us off guard. Despite our worst fears, we see glimmers of light and possibility that give us hope and encouragement. Here is an update from this past few weeks: The First City Singers and First City Bell Choir are Headwaters programs. The volunteer organizers suspended their rehearsals and performances until further notice.
We cancelled our events and workshops, including the April 18 Monroe Crossing concert, the Dave Cofell concert, and the April CoffeeHouse Open-Mic night. At the same time, we initiated the option of holding one-on-one music lessons via online platforms such as Skype, Google Duo, or Facetime.
After Monday’s executive order, we closed the building to the public and moved to holding all music instruction through E-lessons. It has been a high learning curve for our instructors and for students and their families, requiring extra communication and cooperation to figure it all out. So far, about 20 of our 255 music students have withdrawn because they had to relocate due to the emergency, because they lack technology, or because they do not want to do lessons remotely. Our music program coordinator Jessica Westlund has worked super hard on this whole process. When my next note reports that we weathered this difficult time and are stronger and better for it, please remember that it will be largely due to Jessica’s attention to detail, her kindness, and her grit.
Until Monday evenings’ order, we thought we could still hold our after-school art clubs, pottery programs and chess program because each group was fairly small. However, on Tuesday we announced that these classes will not be held during the temporary closure. Depending upon the length of the closure, Headwaters will either extend the programs into the spring or provide refunds. We will stay in regular contact with participants as the situation develops. Art instructors have been offered the option to tackle building or admin projects these next couple of weeks rather than lose the income they would have gotten through delivering these classes.
We are adjusting our projected cash flow to reflect these changes, recognizing that there are certainly more changes ahead of us. The biggest financial pinch is the cancellation of the Monroe Crossing concert, which we expected would our biggest fundraising event this year. There may be a way to conduct an online fundraising event this year, or perhaps do an online auction of the great raffle prizes we have collected. This is just one of the issues to figure out, very soon. For right now, I am in communication with the band and with Paul Bunyan Playhouse to come up with a date for spring 2021.
While we are still in reaction/survival/compliance mode, offering music lesson online has presented some intriguing questions: Will our students make big leaps forward with all the additional practice time at their disposal? In the future, can we deliver all make-up lessons electronically? Can we regularly offer E-lessons in addition to in person lessons? Can we hire instructors who live in other parts of the state or country to teach E-lessons? Once we are on firmer ground with our technology options, can we reach out to youth and adults who live in other parts of the region or the state? Or the country? Rather than simply accept that we will have a drop in student involvement, can we attract new students in the Bemidji area who are hungry for music enrichment in their lives? Will families, seeking creative outlets, be eager to purchase keyboards, guitars, ukuleles, or violins from us? Again, while much is uncertain, it feels good to even imagine there is an upside to all this, and to take action when we can.
In addition to responding to the Covid-19 concerns, our ongoing work continues. We had a very full house for our February 22 music and art instructor showcase. Such talented people around here! Many of our students came to support their instructors. I especially like the picture below of Carolyn receiving a flowers from her student Hannah. It reminds me that we are a community, and that we all have something to offer. Not just instruction and guidance, but also encouragement, kindness, and a generous spirit.
We are working on policy updates, establishing online data storage and better communication processes. Our board is tackling a long range planning process this spring. We have Region 2 Arts, Minnesota State Art Board, and Bemidji Area Arts Endowment, United Way and other grants to submit, report upon, or both. We are seeking additional board members. We have made some building improvements, including new carpeting in several music studios, and are taking bids for a sewer line replacement project for this spring. With the hope that we are still able to offer summer camps, we are working on securing funding and getting the word out about some really fun summer programs. We now have a gumball machine in the lobby, with a portion of the proceeds going to our scholarship programs. Plus, gumballs are just plain fun.
Thank you for your support and investment in Headwaters Music & Arts. We are especially grateful that right now we are on solid enough footing to be able to support our staff and our Headwaters family, address infrastructure needs, continue to keep our doors open, and imagine brighter days ahead.
If there is any way we can be there for you, please let me know. I feel the need to close with the same message I’ve been using in my updates: Be safe. Be brave. And let’s continue be there for each other.
Tricia Andrews, Executive Director