Violinist and composer Michelle Ross is unique as both a solo artist and collaborative visionary. She is the recipient of the 2012 Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund. Michelle is currently artist-in-residence at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.
How has the pandemic affected you professionally?
Like all musicians, we perform for the public and tour, so all of those plans have been canceled for the foreseeable future, which has made this an interesting collective experience among musicians. I'm having a lot of conversations with artists in my community about what that means for the future and how we can stay motivated and engaged with our craft. So many orchestras and institutions are suffering around the world, so we are not alone in this as individual artists.
I'm an artist-in-residence at the College of the Holy Cross, and I feel very privileged to be able to continue teaching via Zoom. I've been teaching chamber music primarily, and I've been so proud of my students’ ability to be so open to the new format. It's been extremely nourishing to be able to have that connection and feel purposeful for my students.
If there were any question about ego and how it interplays into our careers, it has been taken out of the conversation, which in a sense is very beautiful. You start to look at what it means to be a musician, regardless of what your concert schedule looks like. I've been feeling so appreciative about simply being able to create with other musicians and have that connection. Everyone is going to be craving the expression of art when we are once again allowed to come together. I think this experience has shown how much of a necessity art is to get through the day. The whole world is together in this unknown.
How has the pandemic affected you personally?
One of the things I've been trying to balance is trying to create space for myself to do the work that's meaningful, but not feeling overly pressured to overproduce. I've been focusing on composing, which is a truly solitary act. A day of composing at my desk looks the same in or out of quarantine, and yet we have this whole other aspect to our lives now, which presents a different set of challenges.
I've been rewriting some of my drafts that are in progress, rather than feeling the pressure to write a new piece. Even the simple act of rewriting something I've already produced and putting it on my wall to take up physical space has been a very interesting process for me. I'm engaging with the music in a novel, visceral way, and it's been a helpful way to feel expressive, but not pressured.
How do you think it will impact the future of your industry?
I think that we are all going to feel more gratitude for the ability to express ourselves through music and art, since the way we've been able to do that together has been taken away. I don't know how that will manifest, but I imagine the ways musicians reinvent how they create and share their work will be incredibly creative. There's already been an overflow of online concerts that are happening, which goes to show the need to express yourself and reach people. I'm taking the time to look inward right now, and it feels too soon to have something to say since, but I think the arts will be one of the healing factors once we are in a better space.
“I just feel more of a connection with what it means to be alive and human."
If you were to identify a silver lining, what would it be?
For me, it's been appreciation, and understanding what it means to have closeness. I've been thinking about the yearning for intimacy, and what that means between humans and their relationship to the world - often times, that doesn't always mean proximity. We are all feeling so vulnerable, and there's such fragility between the lines separating us. The distance between us feels both acute and unbearably large, but at the same time, we are all feeling this together. I just feel more of a connection with what it means to be alive and human.