CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Musicians and stagehands were among the first to be unemployed from COVID-19 and they say they’ll likely be the last to get back to work.
The local American Federation of Musician’s union in Charleston is requesting West Virginia Governor Jim Justice allow them to play and get back to work. They say live performances are more than entertainment for them, it’s their lifeline.
“I’d like to see the Governor and state leadership give us a chance,” said Charleston freelance musician John Inghram. “I’ve done six gigs since March and that’s more than most people I know,” he said.
Bar owners are also hurting. The Empty Glass in Charleston’s East End had live music seven days a week before the pandemic hit. Bar owner Chris Chabors says musicians are still calling him trying to find work.
“They’re still contacting us trying to get in, but you know, my booking agents will book bands but he’s like, ‘you know everything’s tentative right now, we don’t know when it’s going to start back up,” said Chabor. Chabor says his business is down 60 percent. “The crowd here loves live music, they’re all about live music, and with not having it I don’t see a lot of the old faces,” he said.
Delegate Michael Pushkin is the President of the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians. Pushkin says there are many ways musicians can continue playing while still being safe.
“For instance, you could have differences between whether its brass or wood or vocals, which of course would put out more droplets, or a string instrument, percussion, and keyboards, where if played with a mask on is just as safe as anybody else,” he said.
The union says they contacted the Governor weeks ago with the request for establishing safe-playing guidelines and they have yet to hear back.