COVID-19 has canceled many things, and for the music industry, which relies heavily on in-person gatherings, some have found creative ways to engage their audiences and use music as a way to connect.
For local musicians like trumpeter Pace Rubadeau, music has not been canceled – it’s just found a new venue.
For 53 days, Rubadeau stood in the mostly empty parking lot at the corner of C and Girard streets, serenading the neighborhood with tunes from his trumpet.
“That’s where I realized it could be a vehicle to connect with, and befriend people from a distance,” Rubadeau said. “I am happy to hug distant listeners with sound in the interim as we get through this difficult time together.”
He said he started playing in the parking lot across from the Bellingham Municipal Court after he and his partner were laid off from their full-time jobs in the service industry due to the shutdown orders.
“It began as an attempt to bring light to the darkness,” Rubadeau said. “The vacant parking lot across the street seemed a beckoning place with therapeutic acoustics to play a few songs during sunset as a way to ease the neighborhood from our surreal news.”
Like many musicians, said Rubaeau, he started playing when he was young but only really got into it in high school.
“[Music has] been my fortuitous passport to see the world and work with countless creatives for over 20 years now having played in all 50 states and across four continents while continuing to learn from and contribute to the surrounding scene,” he said.
Rubadeau’s sets are normally around half an hour long, with a variety of songs. Attendees can park along the side of the street or in the back of the parking lot. Many people just stop for a few minutes to listen while walking or biking by.
When he finishes playing, he sends a small remote-control car over to his audience as a “sort of handshake and high-five from afar.”
“The best part is when I drive the remote control car over to them that’s covered in custom trumpet pins and they think it’s to try and finagle tips but it’s actually just a way to gift a tiny token of affection for their tangible support,” he said.
“I usually palm these over in person to mark a fond collaboration or partnership in lasting memory,” he said, adding that “I feel we’re still collaborating, as their presence for [my] set is cathartic and appreciated.”
While Rubadeau had been playing every night of the week, he recently switched to only two nights a week and later in the evening. Listeners were still encouraged to come and invite others, while maintaining healthy distancing practices.
“After 53 days of playing at 7:30 every night, I felt it was best to give the neighborhood a break and also move closer to the summer sunset hours,” he said.
Now, with Whatcom County in Phase 2 of reopening, he will be returning to his job at Elizabeth Station and the era of parking-lot trumpet concerts will come to a close. As he said in his Instagram post announcing this, “With gainful employment and fluctuating hours back on the horizon seems the appropriate time to swan song the Sunset Serenades after 68 days.
His last performances at Girard and C Street was on Sunday, June 14th, and Monday, June 15th.