International law is preventing Micheal Fratino from teaching SUNY Plattsburgh students.
Michael Fratino is an adjunct lecturer in the music department. Normally, he teaches guitar class, guitar lessons as well as the guitar ensemble. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he cannot carry out his normal teaching duties. This is because he lives in Montreal, Canada and the international travel restrictions have made it so that he cannot cross the border.
“There are some classes that I wasn’t able to do online, so I lost my guitar ensemble. It’s hard to do that with a live interface, it’s impossible,” Fratino said, lamenting that technology isn’t advanced enough yet to allow things of that nature to be done.
“I have my guitar class,” Fratino said. “Where I video tape everything and then I Zoom one on one if people need the help, which works. And I have my private studio which is one on one, Zoomed.”
This has not been an uncommon occurrence during these pandemic times, as many who teach private lessons are having to resort to things like Zoom to continue their trade. Some teachers are finding it difficult to teach under these circumstances.
“My thing is, I feed off my students. As a teacher, I’m losing out too by not having the student in front of me. So my motivation starts to die off as well by not having the student there with me,” Fratino said. “The one thing about the online lessons that I don’t like is we can’t jam in person. I can only show, then the person shows me back what they’re learning. But we can never have that interaction where we’re playing at the same time. That’s the one takeaway from online lessons.”
But at the same time, instructors and students are making the best of their situations.
“But that’s ok, everybody’s ok with that,” Fratino said. “We’re learning things, and I also make personalized videos after the lessons. I help the person out as much as I can.”
Like many others, musicians have found themselves with extra time on their hands that they normally wouldn’t have. Because of this, they have been able to practice a lot more.
“I’ve been practicing like crazy. The people I used to jam with, are very terrified of what’s going on and they don’t want to come near me,” Fratino said. “It sucks, but I understand. My whole musical world stopped, in terms of performance and even interacting with other people.”
Fratino mentioned that for the past couple years before the pandemic, he had been focusing on playing the flamenco guitar. A flamenco guitar is similar to a classical guitar, but with a thinner top and less internal bracing.
“I’ve been immersed in that. I’ve been accompanying flamenco dance classes here in Montreal, Fratino said. “That’s before the pandemic hit and everything went to Hell. I mean, I’ve done everything in music. I’ve done rock, metal, jazz, whatever. You know, you go through phases. But I haven’t touched an electric in a long time.”
Fratino continued, “I felt I accomplished that part of my life and I moved onto this. And now that this happened, I was like ‘You know what? I haven’t touched my electric.’ So I picked it up again and I started relearning music I had forgotten. Now I’m starting to relearn virtuosic pieces that I never thought of doing again because I really felt I didn’t need to. But now it’s like the bug hit me again.”
In addition to practicing, musicians have been able to try new things during the free time they might have.
“I got back into my acoustic guitar as well. Bass music that I always wanted to learn, I just never did, Fratino said. “So I picked up a bass and now I’m doing it because I never had the time to do it.”
Musicians who perform live concerts seem to be the most negatively affected by the lockdowns. Montreal, like many other large urban areas, normally has a very active music scene. But the virus has shut all of that down.
“It’s dead. For lack of a better word — we’re screwed. Everything is shut down. Most stores are open, for clothes and things like that, but the theater and music industry is abolished right now.”
But it seems that there is going to be a rainbow at the end of the storm.
“As of March 25, they’re finally allowing music halls and theaters to open up with a capacity of a hundred and fifty people allowed,” Fratino said. “So everyone’s happy again because the music halls are beginning to open up again where people can actually go and watch shows.”
So it looks like there is starting to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for all of us. A beacon of hope that we are going to get through all of this and get on with our lives.