Transforming Communities

Tim Karp: A Musician’s Life in Pandemic

Tim is a London based musician and one half of Live Music Now South East’s Halva Ensemble


I think I had the Coronavirus before the Lockdown started. I had many of the symptoms and it felt very different to anything I had had before, mainly lack of taste and smell. I was lucky to not get it too severely.

As the pandemic started to get serious all my gigs were cancelled – I was due to play at the Vault Festival with my storytelling group The Embers Collective; lots of weddings with my function band Super Tenants;  and music festivals with my Balkan band Don Kipper.

To start with I saw it as an opportunity to finally spend some focused time practicing my guitar so that I could get really good! I messaged a bunch of friends and shared with them my idea of doing online practice sessions that we could do together. During those first few sessions I shared with others some of the exercises I was doing on the guitar. Then more people started to join and it turned into me teaching everybody else. I did a Pro Class every day for 2hrs and then beginners started to show interest so I started a beginners class as well. Beginners in the morning and Pros in the afternoon. At that point I wasn’t asking for money.

In April I got an injury and I couldn’t move my foot for 3 weeks. I was told I should stop playing for a bit so I asked some musician friends to cover my teaching. The online classes started to run 6 days a week and expanded into a range of different instruments and styles and I asked people to start making donations. I called the online music school We Music, created a logo and started promoting it on Facebook and other social media.

It’s been running now for 3 months. I now personally teach intermediate guitar on We Music 3 days a week and have various teachers from around the world teaching Monday to Friday.  I’ve recorded everything on Zoom and I’ve got a google drive that I ask people to pay a subscription for if they’d like to access the recordings and other resources. The school is a way of creating an online community and helping people learn and share music.

I’ve got to the stage where I need to decide whether I want to turn it into something that will take up a lot of my time and generate some income or do I want to keep it nice and simple.

I’ve also had time to reflect on what I was doing musically before the pandemic. I now feel like I’ve got a much better relationship with music. I became a musician because I love music and I love playing but it had become stressful and pressured – going to rehearsals, making something good, travelling to gigs across the country and lugging my stuff around. It wasn’t fun any more.

Playing so much online has also made me appreciate playing with people in person. I’ve started to meet up with friends to play and it feels good. I was in the studio recording some music and it was such a pleasure to play with people that aren’t on zoom!

Recently I’ve had an enquiry from a drinks company who I’ve worked with before with my storytelling group and I’ve done one outdoor gig but that’s not going to be an option once it starts to get cold.

I’m now happier with music. I don’t know what it’s going to be like in the future – hopefully I’ll go back to gigging with a new mentality.