Alaska musicians: How are they surviving without audiences?

Kevin Worrell of Parlor in the Round had a music performance event planned March 12, 2020. As he recalls, his team spent the morning wiring Bear Tooth Theatre Pub….when word came that Anchorage had shut down, thanks to the threat of the coronavirus. By 3 pm, just like that, they were pulling the plug. Event cancelled.

For Spenard Jazz Fest, coronavirus safety concerns mean no physical venues for their annual festival running May 16 through June 7. No musicians traveling from Outside to Alaska, or from within Alaska to Spenard, to perform. The festival went into HD, Hunker Down Mode. The festival, in its 13th year, is still on, virtually. This is their first full week of events.

The virtual concert seems to be the ticket right now.

On May 1, Alaskans got to be the virtual audience for AK4AK, a curated presentation of Alaska musicians filmed down at Ship Creek and presented online through You Tube. The stated goal of the event was to celebrate supply chain workers keeping food on Alaskans’ kitchen tables, and to offer some support for the Alaska Food Bank. Find the recording here, and hear an interview with an organizer on State of Art here.

In yet another creative endeavor, the Anchorage Folk Festival and the Alaska Folk Festival collaborated on a “Keeping the Folk at Home” Festival online May 9 and 10. They were partnered with #StayatHome Festival. All proceeds from the festival were split among the musicians who performed.

No shortage of creativity. But the reality is musicians, and the businesses like bars and restaurants that host them, have seen a sharp drop off in revenue. How will local artists get through it? Are there upcoming virtual events the public should know about? We’ll have a handful of guest artists to talk about their state of affairs, and we’ll hear a bit of their original music in the process.

Your questions or comments are always welcome. I hope you’ll join us.

HOST: Kathleen McCoy


  • Yngvil Vatn Guttu, musician, Spenard Jazz Festival founder, executive director Northern Cultural Exchange
  • Kevin Worrell, musician and Parlor in the Round founder and organizer
  • Rick Zelinsky, saxophone and clarinet artist, ASD and UAA music instructor, founder of Jazz Masters Series
  • Assorted musicians calling in as they can, including Kevin Barnett, Stephen Blanchett, Ed Washington


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kmccoy (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Kathleen

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