Clean hands. Open hearts. Flatten the curve.

This morning 3/14 I decided to cancel lessons too. I’ve included my letter to students at the end of this post.

I went for a walk this morning and came to a decision that I will not be playing any gigs or attending any large group gatherings for the next 30 days.

The US is on an Italy trajectory and we need to be on a China/Korea trajectory. The only way this can be accomplished is with personal sacrifice. I’m sorry for any inconvenience my decision causes.

I’ll still be teaching private lessons but my students know my position on being cautious with their health and energy.

This is not a decision that I made lightly but my intuition is that we need to step forward and be proactive in caring for each other.

#cleanhandsopenhearts #flattenthecurve

Hello musicians,
I’ve decided to cancel music lessons because we need to get serious about not being disease vectors for each other.

I don’t know for how long. Definitely this week of spring break. After that, I’ll keep you posted.

It isn’t only that I have someone living here who is at a higher risk of serious complications if he contracted the virus although that does give me pause. I refer to you this article written by my high school friend Asaf Bitton who is a doctor in Boston: 

“This sounds extreme because it is. We are trying to create distance between family units and between individuals…even if you choose only one friend to have over, you are creating new links and possibilities for the type of transmission that all of our school/work/public event closures are trying to prevent. The symptoms of coronavirus take four to five days to manifest themselves. Someone who comes over looking well can transmit the virus…we have a preemptive opportunity to save lives through the actions we take right now that we will not have in a few weeks. It is a public health imperative. It is also our responsibility as a community to act while we still have a choice and while our actions can have the greatest impact. We cannot wait.”

I’ve had some questions about Skype lessons and I’ve decided not to pursue that at this time but you’ll be the first to know if that changes.

Please let me know that you got the message.

Be well and keep in touch!


An opportunity to support each other

UPDATE: we are now in self quarantine indefinitely.

ORIGINAL POST: I’m writing this post for my students and families who attend weekly lessons in my home studio but perhaps it will be useful to others who wish to adopt some supportive and non reactionary public health practices.

There are now some confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Johnson County and there will be more as testing becomes more widely available. I’m basing my recommendations on the advice of Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, professor of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at The University of Toronto.

You can read the entirety of his recommendations at the bottom of the post but the most salient in terms of how we as adults model our behavior right now is this paragraph: “…mostly, I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, openmindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.”

Let’s embrace this opportunity to commit to some supportive health practices while showing the children in our lives that we can be responsible without being reactionary.

Many of my students already do this consistently but I’m going to encourage everyone to arrive a few minutes early to wash their hands before their lesson.

I’m going to step up my practice of properly cleaning the piano to a schedule of doing it daily before lessons. If you’d like to clean your piano at home, here’s the approach I recommend:

  • Dilute mild soap with filtered water to create a cleaning solution. I use Dr. Bronner’s.
  • Use a clean cloth and only dampen it. Don’t soak. You don’t want to get moisture in between the keys.
  • Use a separate cloth for cleaning the black keys vs. the white keys. I do them first and my logic is that some of their gunk will get on the white keys. I don’t know that this is actually logical or just Tara logic.
  • Wipe the keys in a downward motion towards you to avoid getting any moisture where it shouldn’t go.
  • Wipe one key at a time and dry it before moving on to the next key.
  • After cleaning, “disinfect” keys with a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts filtered water. Follow the cleaning method to “disinfect” each key. Scare quotes because vinegar isn’t as effective as other harsher cleaners but you can’t use those without damaging your instrument so we do the best we can.

Finally, stay home if you’re sick. It’s never worth the risk to others in our community and the best thing you can do is rest and allow your body to heal. If you’re sick and you do come to lessons anyway, I will ask you to go home.

That’s it! 1) wash your hands when you arrive 2) clean your pianos and I’ll clean mine and 3) stay home if you’re sick or be sent home.

I do recommend reading all of Dr. Sharkawy’s thoughts because he has a measured and respectful approach to helping keep us all safe. Here’s his post:

“I’m a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I’ve been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis,TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria…there is little I haven’t been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.

I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.

What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they ” probably don’t have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know…” and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.

I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games…that could be kyboshed too. Can you even

I’m scared those same epidemic fears will limit trade, harm partnerships in multiple sectors, business and otherwise and ultimately culminate in a global recession.

But mostly, I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, openmindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.

Covid-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and “fight for yourself above all else” attitude could prove disastrous.

I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let’s meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.
Our children will thank us for it.”

Coppers & Brass with Champagne Irish Dance featuring Colin Nies at Sanctuary Pub 3/14 6 pm

Coppers & Brass is always happy to return to Iowa City’s most charming pub with our friends the Champagne Irish Dancers.

Next Saturday, March 14, we are delighted to also welcome Colin Nies to share a very special song with us.

No cover charge, no televisions, no need to cook dinner and wash dishes because the food at the Sanctuary is delicious and the service can’t be beat. Come celebrate with us!

March Update

Hello friends!
Has it been another month already? No, it’s been two! 

In February, Coppers & Brass collaborated with Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, McGovern Music Studio and United Action for Youth to record Charlie McGettigan’s Feet of a Dancer. We’re so proud of the result and we’d love it if you would share widely. All proceeds benefit United Action for Youth in celebration of 50 years of serving eastern Iowa youth and families. 

Click on through for more information and to download the single.

March is packed with opportunities to celebrate and support local music and traditional heritage arts.

Friday, March 6 at 7 pm, Keith Reins and I will be joined by Champagne Academy of Irish Dance to provide traditional Irish music and dance for the Coffeehouse Nights series at Lowe Park Arts and Environment Center in Marion.

Saturday, March 14 at 6 pm, Coppers & Brass along with Champagne Academy of Irish Dance will return to our home away from home, Sanctuary Pub. As a seasonal treat, we are delighted to feature Colin Nies on his rendition of Fred Weatherly’s “Danny Boy” set to the traditional Northern Irish tune “Derry Air”.

Tuesday, March 17 at 5:30 pm, Coppers & Brass will be hosting a traditional Irish session at Kalona Brewing Company. All are welcome to play and/or listen. The Champagne Academy of Irish Dance will be concluding their long day of parading and performances with this family friendly celebration and Colin will join us again for this session.

Friday, March 20 at 7 pm, Coppers & Brass as well as my fiddle trio Urgent Collective will be featured at Bucktown Revue, the monthly live music-and-humor variety show at Nighswander Junior Theater in Davenport. Also on the program is zither master Tomy Temerson from Germany. Each of us in the fiddle trio (Natalie Brown, Matt Manweiler and me) has composed/arranged a world premiere piece for this performance.

Friday, March 27 at 7 pm, my folk-rock duo with Jeffrey C. Capps The Soft and Low will be returning to the gem of Swisher, Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery. As much as I love Irish trad, I equally love my collaboration with Jeff and I will be looking forward to this performance all month.

Lots of music-related travel coming up in April and May, including another tour with Hot Tamale Louie, so I’ll catch up with you again in a couple of months.

I hope to see you in March! Sending you love and wishing you well.

Tuned to truth,

Feet of a Dancer benefiting United Action for Youth now available for download

All proceeds from downloads benefit United Action for Youth.

The song is also available on Spotify, Google Play and all the usual streaming services so please consider a direct donation to United Action for Youth if you choose to stream.

A collaboration spanning decades and continents unites Iowa’s beloved Irish trad band Coppers & Brass, Irish step dancer Tréa Champagne, TCRG, Champagne Academy of Irish Dance and McGovern Music Studio for a song to benefit United Action for Youth.

All proceeds benefit United Action for Youth in celebration of 50 years of serving youth and families in Eastern Iowa.

“Feet of a Dancer” is by Charlie McGettigan (Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, Ireland).

This arrangement also features the original hornpipe “Champagne Dancers” by Keith Reins and the reel “Castle Island” by Timothy M. Dillon.

Coppers & Brass
Frank Claudy, flute and whistle
Joseph Dutcher, bodhrán and vocals
Tara McGovern, fiddle and vocals
Keith Reins, guitar

Tréa Champagne, TCRG, Irish step dance and vocals

Additional vocals by dancers/musicians of Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, McGovern Music Studio and our marvelous youth singers Anna, Eviva, Honora, Lauren, Lilia, Lorali, Nina, Nolan, and Rose.

Recorded at United Action for Youth in Iowa City by Kylie Buddin and Nick Mendoza. Mixing and sound editing by Kylie Buddin.

Cover art by Elyse Chapman in cooperation with Coralville Center for the Performing Arts.

We’re very grateful to Elyse and CCPA for allowing us to use this logo which originated with the first collaborative performance of this song at I LIFT MY LAMP: songs & stories of Irish immigration on November 16, 2019 at Coralville Center for the Performing Arts in Coralville, Iowa.