My relationship with the National Junior Classical League began in 2012 when I performed at my first national convention at Wake Forest in North Carolina.
In 2013, the convention moved to UNLV in Las Vegas and I was there. In 2014, Emory in Atlanta, which I wrote about HERE. In 2015, Trinity University in San Antonio (very, very warm). In 2016, Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. In 2017, Troy University in Alabama, which I also wrote about HERE. In 2018, University of Miami (Ohio), which I wrote about HERE. And last year in 2019, the convention was at University of North Dakota in Fargo, which I wrote about HERE.
This year... well, like everything else in 2020, it was bound to be different.
Initially scheduled to be held at the University of Richmond in Virginia, the pandemic pushed the convention online and I was lucky enough to score one of just a few colloquium sessions for a virtual Zoom performance.
Instead of flying to Richmond and settling into a dorm or hotel for a few days, I set up in my living room, my dog curled up in his bed just out of shot. The NJCL folks did a great job of coordinating the tech and we had an audience of nearly 100 students by the time I got through my little intro talk and started singing.
With a couple under my belt, it's still weird doing a show for an internet audience. So many of the things I've learned about performing the Odyssey have come by being in hundreds of different rooms with tens of thousands of people over almost two decades. It's weird being nearly alone and knowing that all the audience can see is a tiny little window around me. It's weird knowing how... "sanitized" for lack of a better word, an internet show is. So many of the things that happen during live performances about which I like to complain... extraneous noise, doors opening, a restless crowd, sound issues, cell phones... I find I miss all of them. These imperfections are the things that make live performances what they are: unique experiences that create unique ephemeral meanings.
When you perform in your living room, you have more control. At least over what goes into the microphone and camera.
So I felt good about how I sang. And it felt good to do the show after a couple months away from performing it. Afterwards I fielded questions via the chat function and they were typically insightful and thoughtful: the JCL audiences are just plain awesome.
The hour ended and instead of walking to the cafeteria for some food and to talk with more students and teachers, I walked the dog.
I'm not sure when I'll be able to perform for in-person audiences again. The NJCL Convention next July 2021 is scheduled to be in San Diego and I hope by then we'll be able to travel and be in rooms together listening to music. But I wouldn't be surprised if we can't yet.
In the interim, I'm left optimistic (and feel lucky) that my Odyssey show works online: I already have a number of bookings for the fall and I think as schools settle into what will likely be virtual learning models, my performance will have a lot of value and will be something in demand in particular as teachers look for creative ways to engage students for online learning.
Homer's epics made it through the Dark Ages, long enough to be written down and preserved. My epic will make it through the Covid Age. And that first show in which I hear a door open in the middle of my song or a student drop a pen or a cell phone ring... that will truly be music to my ears.