Livestream Series: Q&A, Joan Shelley & Nathan Salsburg

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, April 27, we’re continuing the series with singer Joan Shelley & guitarist Nathan Salsburg.

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.

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?

We had a fairly busy travel schedule that would have started up this week, in fact, and lasted well into September, and that’s all wiped. It’s become immediately apparent, of course — as if somehow we hadn’t considered this before — that everything functionally music-related relies on getting people together. We can’t record in studios, can’t arrange a band, can’t go on tour, can’t play shows in venues. This has compelled us to think more critically about the unsustainable parts of the above — namely, touring, and its effects on our bodies. And, most important, the unavoidable reality of its carbon footprint. 

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

Joan’s been writing a lot of songs, born at least partially of being home for the entirety of her favorite season: getting to see what March and April and May look like in their unbroken arc. We’re deeply lucky to be able to make music together, and so aren’t necessarily compelled to reach outside our address for collaboration, though we are finding small joys in that, too. Nathan’s been giving virtual guitar lessons, which he’s never done — not in person, either.

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? 

We’d ask folks to consider Center for Women and Families in Louisville, or some version of same in their own communities. CWF do vitally important work here, all the more vital right now.

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

Nathan is very fortunate to be able to maintain his day job as curator of the Alan Lomax Archive. He’s been doing daily song posts under the moniker of “Trouble Won’t Last Always,” drawing on Lomax recordings from over 50 years for songs of hardship; solace and endurance in the midst of it; transcendence of it. Joan’s been assisting with selections. These songs give an opportunity for perspective of what humans have endured — obviously things immeasurably harder than what we, at least, are experiencing. Some of them also provide such a beautiful sense of fellowship, be it a front-porch house party in Johnston County, North Carolina, or at a Sacred Harp singing in North Georgia.

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!