Jay Chacon, Part One (SINGING-IN-PLACE SERIES)
Let’s face it, 2020 has been an utterly devastating year for the arts.
The impact of COVID-19 on the arts community has been swift and sudden, with no end in sight. It has left a multitude of singers with canceled engagements, tours, contracts, and of course, lost income. And it doesn’t stop there….theatre owners, artistic directors, coaches, pianists, make-up artists, choreographers, costumers, ushers, just to name a few…..are all feeling the economic hardships from losing their jobs.
As the reality sank in and sheer terror over our futures started to grow, each artist had to deal with it in their own way. Many of us mourned the loss of our industry and experienced legitimate depression, anger and fear. But eventually many of us decided to fight back, to be innovators, to find ways to express ourselves through what keeps our souls ignited- performing.
Meet New York based baritone, Jay Chacon, who took matters into his own hands and decided to keep singing. When he learned that most of his live gigs had been abruptly canceled due to COVID, he started his own virtual recital series. Today he shares his experience with his last paid gig in March and his success with singing online.
Where did you last sing and get paid?
Pre-Pandemic (PP): My last engagement was the first of two projects with On Site Opera in New York. I performed the role of Mrs. Pig in Shostakovich’s The Tale of the Silly Baby Mouse, which is a children’s opera. We had performances scheduled in March and April. The second part of this project was performing in their summer main-stage production of Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
Mid-Pandemic (MP): Being stuck at home with no real project on the horizon to work towards, I decided to follow suit with everyone posting videos of themselves singing. I started on an online recital series, and thus, SINGING-IN-PLACE SERIES was born.
How much were you paid?
PP: The first gig paid $450 total. They also provided our travel, as the first performance was in Connecticut. It is important to note that as the pandemic had effectively stalled future performances, the company agreed to honor all contracts.
MP: I put my Venmo link in the posts of the videos, which I called a ‘tip jar.’ I made a plug for donations within the video. After posting six videos, I had brought in over $400.
Where and when was the gig?
PP: The first performance was in Connecticut at a public school. The other two of the children’s opera performances were to be at New York City based schools. The summer show was going to be at the Caramoor Festival, in Katonah, NY.
MP: The online recital series had a pretty good run. Every other day I recorded and posted a video of me singing a song or aria along with a pre-recorded track in my studio.
How long did it last?
PP: We managed to get one performance in before the pandemic hit.
MP: The recital series lasted about two months. During that time I posted 30 videos and made around $1000 dollars. You could say it fed me during those first two months.
How did you get the job?
PP: The artistic director and I have known each other for years. I arranged an audition with him, which is how I got the children’s opera. I later negotiated with him for the summer show. We reached an agreement and I was offered a contract.
MP: Entirely out of my own desire to create something.
What was your overall experience like?
PP: On Site Opera is a fantastic company to work with. Eric Einhorn, the general and artistic director, is a great guy to work for and an excellent director. Performing children’s operas is always a very special performance. Kids enjoy live performance differently than adults do, and you get a particular thrill from doing it.
MP: Finding an artistic outlet during quarantine was incredibly fulfilling. I sang music that I wanted to perform. And because I made a specific schedule for myself, it forced me into practicing on a regular basis. It is also enabled me to listen and watch myself with much more of an analytical eye and to be less self-critical.
Would you do this or a similar gig again?
PP: I have been pretty active with children’s operas and do believe they are important. It is a realm I will do again. I would absolutely work with On Site Opera again!
MP: People are becoming more open to the idea of online platforms and are transitioning to it. As it becomes more the norm, I am happy to participate and collaborate with anyone who is venturing into this medium.
Anything else you would like to add?
We are in a major time of transition and many of us are seeing the need to create simply to create. I miss performing for an audience and can’t wait for the day when we can do that again. But in the end, I just needed to continue singing and to hone my craft. Fortunately, people paid me for it, so I continued singing and creating.