My last gig: violinist and singer Melissa Barrison: “When things change, you can either adapt or fight”
Violinist and singer Melissa Barrison, 31, is a music graduate from Point Loma Nazarene University. She is a member of the country music group Young Guns and a solo artist who has opened gigs for CeeLo Green, POD and Pepper. melissabarrinson.com
It was March 10, 2020, when Young Guns and I performed at the grand opening of the Ahern Hotel & Convention Center in Las Vegas. The concert was like any other – masks weren’t a thing yet, and there was no hand sanitizer or plexiglass shields to be found.
We were all delighted to be there and do our best to entertain and lead the evening. Unfortunately, the crowd was not as big as expected, but it just meant more space on the dance floor. My bandmate, Melody Ebner, and I conducted line dances from the stage and from the dance floor, using wireless microphones. We had several outfit changes throughout the night, but it’s Vegas, baby!
After the hectic madness of the night was over, we were able to just hang out as a group and socialize. Due to COVID, the hotel never had a chance to open and still hasn’t.
The next day, all return flights to San Diego, mysteriously, had been canceled, so we were forced to rent a van and drive home. I volunteered to lead the group as I had made several trips to Vegas earlier that year and felt comfortable with the ride and even enjoyed it. It made me realize how far I had come into my industry as a professional musician – to be able to say that I perform regularly, not just in San Diego, but in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Nashville and beyond. I was no longer just a “local musician”, and I had the miles to prove it.
I had no idea that it would be more than 11 months before setting foot on another stage. Before the pandemic, I had played almost every other day, sometimes twice a day. I had more concerts than there were days in a year.
Just four months before the first lockdown, I left my office job to make music full time, traveling across the country solo and with different artists and bands, doing what I love. Even my tax professional was in awe of my financial successes with music, making 2019 the best year of my career – and 2020 was on the verge of overtaking that.
To be honest, the first lockdown was like my first retreat. Finally, I had a few weeks without heels, glitter or makeup. Then the weeks turned into months and my rest turned into restlessness. Being a creative artist is more than what we do; who is we are, and my colleagues and I started to lose sight of that.
Like most people around the world, the pandemic has proved devastating not only to my career and industry, but also to my mental and emotional health. I had spent over 20 years and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a career that had become fundamentally illegal.
When things change, you can either adapt or fight. As fighting an invisible enemy was not an option, I decided to adapt and make the most of an unfortunate situation. My best friend, Cleo, and I came up with the idea of making “violin telegrams”, and we called it “VioGram”. She drove her car and parked in dead ends, in front of private homes or businesses, and I played the violin through an amplifier above her car for birthdays and other special occasions.
I was also able to augment my home studio and record tracks remotely as a source of residual income. Additionally, the pandemic has boosted my songwriting collaborations (online) with artists across the country.
While I still mourn the loss of my career and lifestyle before COVID, I can confidently say that I am celebrating the opportunity to reinvent myself, adapt and find my new purpose in this ever-changing world. . I find comfort in my colleagues that I am not alone on this journey and that each day is a choice to struggle in despair or to move forward and be joyful in the faith.