Morgan Davison is an emerging bassoonist based in New York, where she’s attending The Juilliard School. I discovered her work through Instagram (@morganpracticesbassoon) about a year ago, and have since been thoroughly impressed by the unrelenting devotion she has for her instrument. She keeps up a frequent routine of posting videos of herself practising, promoting her reed-making business, and sharing her truly unmatched love for Stravinsky. It’s been such a great way to train my ear for an instrument that doesn’t often get the spotlight. She’s part of a burgeoning trend of Instagram celebrity-instrumentalists that I think is great for classical music. For the general public, it can be a great way to hear a classical instrument out of the usual orchestral setting.
Amidst the din and stress of the pandemic, Morgan recently decided to step away from her social media as well as taking a break from music. We’re all being told of the virtues of taking this moment to rest and recuperate, which is of course good advice, but the choice isn’t always easy for up-and-coming artists who need every hour of rehearsal space and practise time they can find. Morgan joins us for this episode of REMOTE to talk about coming to terms with taking a break and how she’s dealing with the uncertainties of this moment.
How have you been coping during this lockdown?
It has certainly been a stressful past couple of months. In the beginning, I did not take the situation seriously, and for me it was all a lot of fun. I got to go home to Colorado two months early, where I could spend time with my family’s puppy and finally have time to sleep in, practice, and make as many reeds as I wanted. I packed my apartment with things needed to spend a month at home. However, when I finally got home at the beginning of March, things suddenly became real and tense for me and my family, as well as millions of other Americans and people across the world. As time went on, I developed the general fear for the unknown future, as did everyone around me. My music began to lose the effect of bringing joy. I still had a jury for Juilliard to record, so I was playing every day just to make sure I could successfully perform my jury. However, after my jury, I fell off the bus. It took a hard talk with myself to understand that I was feeling down for a reason, and that it was okay for me to take a break from playing music. I was only pushing myself further into the red when I played, and injury and frustration made me feel like I was plateauing. My coping methods have included taking a break from music, deleting social media for a little, doing yoga, reconnecting with nature, playing with my puppy, and recognizing and understanding my mental health so that I can come out of this time stronger than I was before.
What sort of digital initiatives have you been involved in or planning, in lieu of live performance?
I have done a couple of collaborations with fellow musicians. These collaborations have become the “new normal” when trying to connect with musicians, as opposed to walking into an orchestra rehearsal and making music together. I have also been working on my arranging chops, as I now have enough time to spend doing other hobbies. I have many plans for this time, including more collaborations, score studying, and recording projects.
What are some words of wisdom that’s helped you get through this pandemic?
My mental health is the most important thing. This is a different kind of stress, and in some ways it’s worse than the normal day-to-day stress of living in New York City, attending a conservatory, and trying to become a professional musician. This has also been a wake-up call of things that are important to me other than music. I’ve reached out to people I’ve lost touch with, and found joy in things that are mundane and often overlooked for me, like painting, reading, and cross-stitching. Overall, I’ve learned that it’s absolutely okay to take a break from my dream life for a while. Those dreams will still be waiting for me on the other side of this pandemic. Throughout this all, I’ve found comfort in knowing that things will get better one day, and the hope in getting through this together and coming out stronger is pulling me through this uncertain time.
What do you think are some of the ways arts communities can better prepare for adjusting to a crisis such as this?
I think that being flexible is the biggest key. Right now, the only communication that arts communities can achieve is through the internet, and so I think that having a solid technological team goes a long way. Performing orchestral music through a split-screen is not ideal, and it’s hard to achieve, but not impossible. The result can be fulfilling and motivational. I think that arts communities are doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and that is commendable. Artists are doing what they’re naturally wired to do — create art through the medium available. It just takes recognition of the opportunities, and a drive to achieve the best for yourself, your organization, or your community.
Books, films, or TV on the go?
I’m a big fan of the Breaking Bad series, and Better Call Saul (the prequel series focused on the seedy lawyer from Breaking Bad) has been a great, artistic show to catch up on. A new season of Ozark just came out, and that is a thrilling and nerve-racking show to spend time with. I also love the Star Wars universe, and I’ve been nerding out on watching all nine of the canon movies, as well as some of the animated shows related to the S.W. story — Clone Wars and Rebels. Those are my reed-making shows!