Mother Tongues Connections
Meet Ema Stapleton
I am a musician, teacher, musicologist, and composer from Dublin. I am primarily involved in music research, but in the current quarantine I have turned to songwriting for inspiration and solace.
How would you describe your last year in a nutshell?
In September, I started working in my dream job: lecturing in musicology, research methods, and artistic development at BIMM Dublin, where I was previously a student! I have been consumed by lesson planning and long days between the teaching and my second job as an admin in a music school, but it has been a completely fulfilling year! I also worked with MT on the Mother Tongues Festival as the event coordinator, both this year and last, which has connected me with so many creative people and practicing artists from all over the world. It has been wonderful to see the organisation grow, and I only hope it can continue to do so despite these challenging times. My year of teaching is coming to a close soon, so I will be looking for creative ways to fill my summer months before I do it all again next year!
What is the role of art in your life right now?
Art is very important to me, it has been for as long as I can remember, and it is a particularly prominent part of my life at the moment. Specifically, music is my biggest artistic pursuit and passion. I am a vocalist and composer. However, in quarantine I have also been seeking other, artistic ways to pass the time. I have been painting abstract pieces on canvas and I have taken up poi spinning (a beautiful circus art, if you haven’t heard of it).
What projects are you working on right now?
I am currently writing several songs inspired by the quarantine, including co-writes with people from all over the world! It’s crazy how our world of communication can expand when our physical world gets smaller. I have no solid plans for what I will do with these songs yet, but we will see! I will likely be uploading some of them to SoundCloud (soundcloud.com/emastaples), at least.
How did Covid-19 affect your work and your lifestyle?
I have been very fortunate that most of my work has remained relatively stable throughout the Covid-19 crisis. I am still working the majority of the hours I did before the lockdown, and I am very thankful to my several places of work for that. My lifestyle has changed quite a bit, however. Adjusting to working and teaching online has been difficult, but there has been a lot of support there from my employers in doing so. I have been going out cycling, which I previously had not done in quite some time, because it is easier to keep distant from other people when cycling than walking. That has certainly been an unexpected plus to come from this situation!
Do you think the current pandemic has changed you? If so, in what way?
I do not think I have been changed in any profound, fundamental way, but I do think it has challenged my way of thinking greatly. The mediation of Covid has been messy and confusing, and it has taught me not to get swept away in a sea of speculation. I have begun to think very much in the moment, as no one knows at the moment what the world will look like a month from now, or three or six months. I have been eerily calm throughout this entire situation because I have stopped worrying about the things that are not an immediate issue at the moment, or that are outside of my control. I hope that is something I will be able to hold on to once the pandemic quietens down!
what is the biggest challenge for the creative sector right now?
I think there are many, many challenges for people who work in creative jobs at the moment. In any kind of crisis, often the first jobs to be cut are the “non-essential” creative and entertainment ones. However, due to the amount of time many people have one their hands right now, I have seen many people expressing an interest in taking up an instrument through online lessons.
So, while artists are losing jobs because of the pandemic, there may be new, temporary jobs for us in unexpected places. This pandemic is particularly harmful, though, because in-person entertainment cannot take place.
Often, things like gigs or art classes can be an artist’s main source of income and these incomes are being replaced by free live streams on Instagram or Facebook. I’m sure there are many artists finding the that particular situation very difficult at the moment. To combat this, there has been a push on social media to encourage people to buy merchandise or art from artists to help them through this difficult time, which I completely support!
What do you look forward to the most right now?
I look forward to my daily excursion outside! Like I said, I have really not been thinking beyond the current moment. It has been much easier to just focus on what I can do now than wistfully dreaming of what I will do once the lockdown is lifted. Cycling has become such a source of calm for me in present times. When it is quiet out, I have also been going for walks in a park near me. I swear the birds are chirping louder now that we’re not disturbing them.
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