Isolation Drills: Rachel Icenogle

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Icenogle: I’ve been doing a lot that’s not music, but my imagination has been running wild. It’s like I finally have the time to let my mind go, without all the little details of negotiating, commuting, navigating every different freelance project. My dreams have become really boring, but I feel like a kid again while I’m awake. It’s exciting to have that energy. I’m worried all the time about everything, and at the same time, I have a lot to enjoy.

The days seem endless, but they’re so full of things to do. I’m hanging on to an intrinsic, unconscious reflex to maintain a certain work ethic, something that’s ingrained in many of us. The idea that hustle will be rewarded with success seems so ridiculous right now. Most of my career evaporated practically overnight, but I’m still hustling anyway inside my house. I guess that’s a difficult habit to quit.

I didn’t realize before this how tired I was. I had a really tough winter and had stepped mostly back from live performances for a few reasons. I’d been booking a tour for right now that would have been my return to playing shows. I didn’t feel relaxed, though; I wasn’t even listening to any music because it made me think of work. I’d become someone without hobbies. I was really proud of that when I was younger, music was the only thing I lived and breathed. But it becomes a feedback loop after a while: You forget what’s good and unique and inspiring and special about all of it when you’re not experimenting with other forms of creativity, too. Now that I’m actually taking a break, some of that excitement is coming back again.

I’m feeling impossibly lucky. I’m feeling distressed. There’s long-distance work filtering in for me, and I’m overwhelmed by and grateful for it. I have to learn what my new boundaries are, how much I’m capable of taking on. I’m feeling lucky that I have a choice, that I can say yes or no. I feel lucky that people remember who I am even if I haven’t updated my website in six months.

I have so much love coming in from my community of family and friends, all of whom I’m especially grateful to have lately. I’m paying that love and support forward as best I can, same as the income I am lucky to still receive. I’ve had beautiful creative moments with others; I’ve been getting more in touch with my body. I’m taking yoga classes and voice lessons. I would never have picked either of those things for myself a few months ago, but they’ve been good for me. I am outside my comfort zone in both, supported by the friends who teach me. It’s the kind of discomfort that becomes an adventure. Those hours bring me to the present moment; they are what I look forward to most. It’s good practice, and one of the truest joys of practicing is to recognize that everything you can ever do is the same set of skills that learning your instrument was and is and will be. Practice is a language common to every single thing I’ve done. It’s a language of listening to yourself.

In the weeks since I wrote this article, our city and country have seen some old ugly tensions inflamed past a breaking point. But we have an opportunity and an obligation to fight together for the changes we want to see in the world. Be active, support your neighbors who are in the streets working for change, buy from black artists and businesses. Defund the police. Black Lives Matter.