The last in-person on-campus Odyssey show I did BCE (Before Covid Era, naturally) was February 25, 2020, at Northern Illinois University.
A full 19 months later, almost to the day, I was finally back in a classroom, masked, and singing to a group of similarly masked students on the UIC campus.
Reading my writing on the NIU show is like reading a note from a different dimension in some ways... I think by the time I posted that piece the first week of March the awareness of the severity of what we were facing was rapidly building and I was already getting show cancellations from across the country.
But in other ways, everything I wrote there applied to my return to in-person college shows. Instead of dealing with the fickle nature of the human voice, I was dealing with, for the first time ever, singing for 35 minutes with a mask on.
Honestly? I wouldn't choose to do it but it wasn't that bad.
So every whiner who complains about having to wear a mask for 10 minutes to get Starbucks can f*ck right off. If I can wear a mask and sing for 35 minutes (let alone for an entire work shift), you can wear a mask to get your pumpkin spice latte.
And any inconvenience or discomfort in navigating the mask was far exceeded by the exhilaration of being back in front of a live audience, especially in the environment in which I've done the vast majority of my shows, the classroom.
For perspective, from late 2010 to early 2020, I didn't go more than 4 months without an in-person performance, and many years breaks between shows were 2 months or less. In 2018, I had at least one show every month of the year.
I do feel lucky for the 22 Zoom shows I had in the interim and the creative ways professors and secondary teachers welcomed me and my work into their virtual classrooms. I'm also beyond grateful for the one in person public show, in Alaska, which I was able to sneak in this spring before the Delta surge.
And I'm excited and nervous for the handful of in-person shows I have booked for the rest of the year including 3 in Europe (if conditions allow).
I finished my final song in that classroom at UIC, adjusted my mask, and started fielding questions. The students were great: they were excited to have an actual "normal" event in their classroom.
It seems like the Covid Era will be full of new and old experiences like this for the foreseeable future.
And as somebody whose work strives to integrate the new and the old into one experience, I'm okay with that.
Can't wait to be back out there in front of people as much as possible in the coming months and beyond.