Livestream Series: Q&A, Gerald Clayton

This article was originally published on the Duke Performances blog

Duke Performances is partnering with Duke Arts and WXDU on a livestream series hosted by DP on Facebook Live and Instagram Live. This Wednesday, May 6, we’re continuing the series with pianist and composer Gerald Clayton.

In advance of these performances, we ask participating artists to reflect on how the coronavirus crisis has impacted their work, and what they are finding reassuring through these uncertain times.

We encourage you to check Duke Performances’ blog each week for a new Q&A. We also invite you to explore or contribute to Duke Arts’ “Arts & Artists Are Essential” collection of voices, opportunities, and offerings, or you can subscribe to receive weekly updates. Artists within and around the Duke University community remind us of the full spectrum of our creative power and our resilience as we navigate this new environment.

Gerald Clayton selfie-ing from home.

We know artists are deeply impacted by COVID-19, both in their artistic career and in side gigs in other industries dependent on social interaction. Can you give us some insight into what has changed for you?

It is certainly a strange and unique time. Pre-COVID, the majority of my work throughout the year involved touring the world, performing on various stages — so things have taken a drastic shift from normalcy. I think the overarching question marks offer the greatest mental challenge. To not know when the wheels will start turning again, and what adjustments will have to be made when they do — it’s all an invitation for fear and anxiety. I’m doing my best to decline that invitation, and keep focused on self care and improvement.

Has your artistic practice been affected? For example, are you making any new work right now, or finding other ways to collaborate remotely?

It has. This experience has clarified how much my inspiration relies on the community I surround myself with. Working on my craft feels a lot different when there are no gigs or sessions to look forward to. I’ve found it hard to jump on the digital collaboration train. I am open to it, and I appreciate it for what it offers us, but I also feel sad about the ways in which it is lacking.

While this time is particularly challenging, I must admit it has already been many years that I’ve grown accustomed to an on-and-off dance with my muses — inspiration does strike from time to time, just not on any regimented schedule. Luckily I do have some future projects that I can focus on — a good reason to return to the dance every day and see if the muses are in the mood. 

We will publicize your livestream with the suggestion that viewers make a donation to an artist relief fund of your choice, and will always include two local Durham, NC, options. Is there a relief fund or other support response close to your creative and/or local community you would like to share with us? 

Frontline Wellness United is a group of healthcare providers who are both serving the sick and in their spare time advocating to make sure no person gets left out of our public health response, including people with mental health issues and vulnerable people behind bars.

I also encourage all music lovers to support artists by purchasing their music.  

Do you have any words of hope, or artistic work you’ve found comfort in, that you’d like to share with our audience?

My most recent inspiring listen was a wonderful interview on Krista Tippet’s podcast “On Being” where she speaks to Stephen Batchelor about finding ease in aloneness.

Stay loving, everyone. This too shall pass. 

The artist relief funds established by North Star Church of the Arts and the Durham Arts Council, as well as any additional funds nominated by the artist performing, are not affiliated with Duke University. Thank you for supporting local artists!