Isolation Drills: Emily Bate

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.

Bate: Everything I’ve been working on for the last couple of years has been about communal singing. I run a big queer choir in West Philly called Trust Your Moves, and I’ve been writing a couple theater pieces that use choral music. This has all come to a screeching halt, obviously, with no way to tell when it’ll be safe to get 75 people in a room, spraying a bunch of droplets everywhere.

It’s a loss, and I’m really missing the community that’s formed around those projects. I also really miss performing. This is the longest I’ve gone without performing for years and years. 

One thing I always find hard about being an artist with presumably only one life to live is that everything I choose to engage in cuts off another possibility. I’ve been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t released a new solo album in years. So now I have space to work on new recordings, and that’s been a weird little coronavirus gift. I decided to do a “summer CSA” this year: a subscription service where I send people zines, stickers, merch and record a new single for every month of the summer. That’s definitely kept me sane and replaced a lot of the income I lost this summer.

It’s also amazing that people have time and space and fire for political organizing right now. I’ve been going to protests, doing mutual aid work, donating money, bothering Mayor Jim Kenney, etc. For white people, this is such an important moment to seize. How can we commit to black liberation, in a concrete way, that will last beyond a few weeks? I joined a year-long study group of My Grandmother’s Hands, which is a somatics book exploring the impacts of racism on our bodies and nervous systems. 

Doesn’t March seem like a million years ago?! So much has happened, and who the hell knows what’s next. In this moment, I’m glad I have a way to make art and connect with people, and I’m trying to stay focused on that. If folks are interested in the summer CSA project, the “full share” is sold out, but you can still subscribe to a “half share,” which is three zines and three music singles.