Thursday, March 26, 2020

Custom Dog Portraits by JVK

LAST WEEK WHEN Second String Music was still open, Jeff VanKanegan stopped by and noticed the guitars on the wall with pictures of our  dogs. Jeff is a graphic artist and a retired Quincy Notre Dame teacher. I played many a memorable Cheeseburger gig with him - he's a founding member and amazing bass player. He's still out there doing his art and playing music.

We started talking and we asked Jeff if he would consider doing a portrait of Sheryl's beloved border collie, Lucy, who passed away 6 years ago and was the love of her life. Jeff said sure. Sheryl sent him a couple of her favorite Lucy photos and Jeff went to work. Yesterday I picked it up and it's incredible.

This is so much more than just a painting or a portrait or a rendering - it's a piece of us, and it has enormous meaning.

Jeff does Custom Dog Portraits and his prices are reasonable. People say, "Why would you pay for a painting?" Well, why do you pay just as much a month for cable or your phone? Art is just as essential. It's expressed in many forms and you can't put a price on it.

These are tough times for a lot of people, but if you have the ability to support a local artist and you want a memory to last a lifetime and beyond, text him at (217) 779-4001. I guarantee you will love it. We have a perfect and heartfelt painting of Lucy to prove it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

No lesson blues

NORMALLY AT THIS time on a Tuesday morning, I'm in the midst of five lessons in a row. When I get done I walk around in a daze for a bit to recover. It's intense and fatiguing, and I love every second of it.

We are not doing lessons right now, obviously. The store is closed for at least three weeks, and we can't have people in the store and in a back room. It's not just the students, it's often the family members with them. Flattening the curve is flattening the curve - no lessons in the store for at least three weeks.

There are conflicting thoughts here. Do I just not do lessons, or do I look for alternative lesson delivery? Sheryl and I rely on lessons to pay our mortgage and bills. Guitar strings don't grow on trees and I have expenses related to music equipment - no paying gigs for a while hurts too, though the Venmo thing Sunday night with Cori was a bonus and much appreciated.

So I have no guitar lesson income for three weeks. We will be fine and the real key is when we get back to normal, whatever normal is or will be. For the time being, we just need to watch our pennies.

My daughter is a professor of music at Western Illinois, and she's resumed her teaching online. Emily sent me a message the other day encouraging me to try the video lessons thing, as have several other people. I appreciate the advice. But it's not as easy as it seems.

When we contacted people to say we were not having lessons, only a few hinted at the online thing. Many of my students are older, and not all of them are Internet savvy. Neither am I, though I'm sure Sheryl could get it set up with only a few eye rolls and answering a thousand of my dumb questions.

For the younger students, there is apparently a lot of "distance learning," which is code for online classrooms. It's a great idea and I applaud the parents who have the stamina and fortitude. There's a joke circulating where a mom is seen removing her "Student of the Month" sticker off her back car window after a week of attempting to home school via the computer - it can't be easy.

So maybe even more screen time isn't such a good idea.

Who knows? A few days into this quarantine thing and I'm already starting to go crazy. Sheryl survived yesterday by binge-watching a real life soap opera called Below Deck. I wrote a short story, practiced a few songs, failed at trying to start a fire with water-logged wood, and watched an equally horrendous Arnold movie called Last Stand. It was so bad, it was good.

But I didn't give any guitar lessons, and it's a strange and empty feeling. I miss my students. I miss the store. Give it another week, and I might be ready to consider the whole online teaching thing.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Live Stream and tons of fun

CORI AND I had a blast last night doing the first-ever HartLyss Facebook live stream. Thank-you Sheryl for operating the camera and passing on the various notes and requests. We had a huge response, much bigger than I thought. Sheryl also put together a Venmo account for us, and I was stunned at the generous donations. We had so much fun that we are going to do it again next Sunday night.

Playing live is partially how I make a living. The next three weeks, and very likely beyond that, will put a major crimp in the live music scene in general. It sucks. There's nothing we can do but suck it up, and get creative. Thanks to Aspen Gengenbacher for the idea of the live stream. She rocks! A lot of local artists are jumping on the Facebook live stream thing and I encourage everybody to support them as we flatten the curve by staying in.

It was a little strange at first, Sheryl learned how to live stream and Hartlyss learned how to look good for the camera. But then we started seeing all the comments from our friends and family and it got really fun. This was the first time my brother (Phoenix) and two sisters (Denver and Raleigh, N.C.) have seen HartLyss play, and we also had some of my crazy cousins in Michigan and Toronto watching and presumably hooting along with us. All of Cori's crazy friends showed us how much they love their friend and also wished her a happy birthday. It was a unique experience.

I think we did three or four songs we've never done before, which is typical HartLyss style. It makes me want to practice a little more and get better. But ... we do what we do, and we have a blast, and it all seems to work out.

Sheryl and I are at the store this morning to receive a couple of large shipments. It will be a long three weeks. But ... we'll get through it. Live, streaming, hooting, hollering!

Friday, March 20, 2020

No vacation. Bleep you, COVID 19

SHERYL AND I have long looked forward to a dream vacation in Belize. We were supposed to leave one week from today. It was going to be the first time we've ever gone on vacation to a new destination, one that didn't involve family. We love our family. But this was going to be really nice. We saved our pennies and planned how to keep the store open. We even got the awesome Brianne Campbell to watch the dogs.
Kelly Wilson just got back from Belize. We are jealous.

Last night we learned the State Department has warned to not travel outside of the country. Our flights will be canceled, and getting back was going to be a challenge regardless. So we've been forced to call it off.

Thank you, Reggie Freel at Travel House in Quincy for working with us and taking care of the cancellation details. We have trip insurance, so we'll only be out a few hundred bucks. We are dejected, but in the grand and global scheme of things, well .... we will be OK. This isn't some sort of conspiracy or hoax. People are dying and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

That being said, we are still doing business at the store and I'm still taking precautions while doing lessons. We haven't had more than two or three people in here at once. Traffic-wise we've seen a slowdown but we've still sold lots of gear this week. We are worried about total shutdown of non-essential retail but will do that if necessary.

We will reschedule the vacation. In the meantime, Sheryl just bought a refrigerator we need. I might buy a guitar and turn it up to 11. Or drink a beer. Or learn some songs for our HartLyss livestream Sunday night.

Those warm and sandy beaches will have to wait, and we will hunker down with everybody else and get through this.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sunday Funday livestream

IT'S OFFICIAL. CORI and I (HartLyss) are doing a livestream show Sunday night, 7 p.m. Central time. Sheryl set up a Venmo if people want to leave a tip. Let's have some fun!

We'll take requests. We'll even try a few songs we don't know. What's the worst thing that could happen? We've never botched a song before. Ever. Except on days ending in Y.

You will have to be on Facebook and like our HartLyss page. We are doing it at Fifth and Maine, but unfortunately, we will not be able to have people over due to the 10-person rule. We are happy and healthy and plan to stay that way.

Second String Music is open and we are doing OK. We've had a few students decide to stop taking lessons, and we totally get it. Personally, I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better, but if I'm wrong, it's a good thing.

Wash your hands, be safe and keep rocking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Streaming Concerts

HARTLYSS IS THINKING about having a livestream show this weekend. Everything is shut down, and other local artists are doing it. Why not? Sheryl set something up called Venmo, which means people can send in tips if they are so inclined. It's a great idea so we'll see if we can put something together.

A livestream show done on Facebook doesn't come remotely close to an actual live show. You can't replace the energy and the vibe. But it's still a good idea since the world is ending and we still want to play.

We have shows scheduled April 11 at Bricks in Hannibal and April 25 at the Tap Room in Quincy. Who knows if they will actually take place? I have a feeling the COVID-19 pandemic will last a lot longer than the end of this month, but we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope we can get back to a semblance of normal.

If you think this a liberal hoax and you don't think we should be inconvenienced and all the shut downs are unnecessary, fine. I'm not going to argue with you, especially since you know you might be wrong. But don't be like the older woman who came into the store Monday, didn't step one foot past the door, and asked if we had CD players. She then went on a rant about how it was all dumb and we didn't have to do it and nobody believes anything the World Health Organization says, blah blah blah. I stopped talking to her but she wouldn't be quiet - "I've had to cancel all the church activities and only 3 percent of the population will get this so why should we all suffer."

Finally Sheryl said, "Well, if you die from the virus consider it God's will." Two seconds later, Miss Inconvenienced was out the door. God wins again. That Baptist upbringing comes in handy sometimes.

Then there was the guitar student who had two free lessons. He missed his lesson last week and called two days later, saying he had to go out of town. Then he showed up for his lesson yesterday and said he wanted to cancel because of the virus thing. Wait. You are telling us this in person? You don't want to get infected and are "scared" of what's happening, yet you showed up IN PERSON and risked getting infected from us anyway? Please call and cancel if you feel this way.

Sigh ....

I've had several students decide to take the next few weeks off, and we not only understand but support the decision. We will credit them for the lessons and hopefully get back on schedule when this is over. But the majority of my lessons are still coming in. We are taking precautions, like staying back 6 feet, washing hands before and after lessons, and keeping the lesson room clean. Yes, I am actually cleaning it.

So we will make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. I may take weeks or months but in the end we will survive. We are here and we are safe and healthy, and what won't kill us will make us stronger. Literally.