Giveton Gelin has dreams of becoming a touring jazz musician. By virtue of winning the 2020 LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award, which came with a 10-city North American tour that would have had him playing before thousands of fans and the crème de la crème of the jazz music industry, the Bahamian trumpeter and student at the Juilliard School was beginning to see his dreams realized. And then COVID-19 interfered.
Gelin saw Juilliard take the unprecedented step of going to remote learning for the remainder of his third year at the New York institution, and all public performances and activities canceled through May 23, to limit the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). As for his 10-city tour, dates have been postponed or canceled.
This was the year for Gelin to do a lot of things, in the United States and other countries. But with the global shutdown in the wake of COVID-19, Gelin prefers to look at it as a “glass half-full” scenario.
“It’s not all bad news because you never know how things are going to clear up. I think the opportunity is still there, and once things clear up, I’m going to get new dates, but for right now, summer is just not looking like the time for anyone to be playing live music,” said Gelin.
Gelin, 21, who finished up his junior year just three days ago, did so in “The Big Apple”, the epicenter of the new coronavirus in the US, rather than return home to The Bahamas.
“Funny enough, once things got very severe, I didn’t necessarily have the time to make a decision to go home before knowing that it was going to get that bad, so by the time they had the lockdown in The Bahamas, because they wanted to take precautions early, I basically couldn’t even go back. And like a week later, [Juilliard] started doing remote school classes. So, by then, I was basically in my house in quarantine,” said the trumpeter.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis closed airports, docks and ports nationwide on March 27 in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The Bahamas confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 15.
To date there remain 96 confirmed cases – 74 on New Providence, eight on Grand Bahama, 13 on Bimini and one on Cat Cay.
The number of recovered cases is at 43, active cases at 42 and hospitalized cases at seven. There have been 11 deaths.
Gelin said finishing out the semester at the performance-based school was an experience.
“The transition was a bit difficult, but we got it done,” he said.
“The way that the teachers were able to connect, even though it was remote and it’s never going to replace how it would be if I were to be at Juilliard in the building. But I think they did a good job with creating a space for us to work out kinks, even though we didn’t have the opportunity to work things together. And because the school is small and it’s so communal, by the time we ended up going remote, it was just more so trying to get the technical side of things together and not so connecting with the community remotely.”
Gelin said the most difficult aspect to remote learning for him was trying to deal with the pandemic – the emotional stress and not being with people.
He’s also challenged trying to find inspiration from places and things he wouldn’t usually turn to.
“The hardest thing for me to do is to find that inspiration that’s so easy to find in New York when you’re just outside and going and doing things. The hardest thing for me to do was find it in myself to keep going, and doing the things that I did before when now I can’t necessarily perform.”
The offshoot to him not being able to perform, he said, is he’s writing more, trying to find alternatives and broaden his arsenal.
“When something like this happens, artists especially, we’re at a point where we have so much time to create and it’s great to use that time and expand.”
Like many other Bahamians, he’s in a holding pattern as to how learning will continue for him in the fall.
But in the midst of the global health pandemic, Gelin released his debut album “True Design”, which he said is about the artistic nature of the universe. The 12-track album dropped on all streaming platforms on his birthday, April 19.
He went ahead with the release during the public health pandemic knowing that the marketplace wouldn’t be as vibrant as it usually is, but he said people now have the time to just listen to music and find things they never had time for prior to COVID-19.
“I released it anyway because people are at home and looking for inspiration. They’re looking for something to help them heal – to just get through the mental process of being home and not being able to go outside.”
His band, the Giveton Gelin Quintet, currently communicates through video calls to exchange ideas.
The trumpeter, composer and bandleader, said the uptick to the new coronavirus pandemic and the downtime is that it’s allowed him to engage the more important aspects of his life which had been neglected. He has been talking more with his parents – dad Jean, mom Ivodiv and his siblings – sister Gibedy and brother Gibeson. He has also been able to carve out the time to work out with his brother, whom he said is the athletic one, and encourage his sister in her music.
“It’s been fun, working with them and just talking more.”
He also said he’s using the time for more experimentation and exploration with his music, which he said is his passion.