Musician Mike Noordzy has built a thriving career for himself as a bassist with several ensembles and as a composer and recording artist. But in the wake of COVID-19 and the closing of nonessential businesses in New Jersey and elsewhere, Noordzy has seen his bread and butter—gigs at restaurants and bars around the state—disappear. “I pretty much lost 90 percent of my work,” says Noordzy MGSA’07,’14.
It’s a situation faced by countless musicians across the country whose careers rely on a steady gig economy. Noordzy, who lives in Highland Park, New Jersey, wanted to do something to help other musicians continue to make music together. So he created “The Walking Bass Hour,” a live one-man rhythm section that streams daily on Facebook and Instagram.
Each morning, Noordzy posts on his social media pages the names and keys of six jazz songs he’ll be playing that day. Then at 1 p.m., he starts playing the bass accompaniment for those songs. Musicians anywhere can play along with him live on social media or jam with the video of the session later. (“Walking bass” refers to the steady quarter-note pattern bassists typically play to provide a strong rhythm for the other musicians in a jazz ensemble, such as brass and woodwind players.)
Noordzy says his song choices reflect his aim to make the session accessible and enjoyable for musicians of all skill levels. “I try to pick some obvious classics, ones that get played at every jam session, as well as a couple of songs that are off the beaten path.” Recent selections have included standards like “Witchcraft,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” and “Autumn Leaves.”
He says he’s happy to provide an opportunity for other musicians to keep playing during this difficult time. “You can practice by yourself all you want, but this kind of music truly benefits from being able to play with someone else,” Noordzy says.
He estimates that about 20 people each day tune in to play along live with him. He hopes that his efforts are helpful to other musicians; he knows it’s helped him. “It’s been great for me to have something that’s regular every day,” he says. “I have to pick six songs and be ready to play them. It’s good to have that consistency.”
Music, he says, helps people get through tough times like these. “It’s important to do something that makes the day go by a little easier or gives you something to think about that’s not the current situation,” he says, “even if it’s just for an hour.”
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