Photo taken by Susan R. Symonds for InfinityPortraitDesign.com
American composer and musician, Erik Gustafson (b. 1972), has pondered what life, society, and the arts and music will look like post COVID-19. Clearly, the world as a whole has reached an inflection point. In early 2021, Erik has been among those imagining new ways of making and sharing music as individuals as well as part of overall efforts in moving forward.
Progressive in his own right, Erik has been aligning himself with causes of his long-time spiritual home: Old South Church in Boston. In this regard, he has composed music on behalf of Care of Creation, in response to civic events such as the 2013 marathon bombings and the Boston Strong response, as well as in defense of inclusion and LGBTQ+ rights. Furthermore, he has written music specifically for colleagues, including Harry Huff, George Sargeant, Sam Ou, Willie Sordillo, and Adriana Repetto.
Recently, Erik has been giving livestream concerts on his YouTube channel extant since 2012. He has remained active during COVID-19 also in composing music, such as Dona nobis pacem: A Prayer for Peace, and in recording, including Music for Uncertain Times, a full-length album from 2020. Having played the piano in the atria of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Tufts Medical Center (both of Boston, MA), Erik chose the playlist for the above album as an outgrowth of sharing music at both hospitals.
Well before COVID-19, Erik has had experience in music for healing purposes. For example, during his graduate studies, he took part as choral singer for a large-scale rendition of the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten, following the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. Within the past few years, Erik has played the piano for residential communities – also involving memory units of nursing homes – simultaneously acquiring new repertoire and valuable life lessons.
Erik has had other constructive experiences constituting life-long learning and augmenting his musical training at Harvard College and Indiana University. In 2006, Erik participated in a week-long workshop with Alice Parker. In addition, Erik has enjoyed two residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). In 2014, Erik audited an interfaith class, Words to Live By: Key Terms in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; and, he composed a new piano piece as a result: A Theme for Peace (…may peace be our theme).
In whatever musical pursuits and creativity 2021 may bring – whether new albums, live concerts, or new works for better race relations or treatment of the environment, Erik’s efforts will continue towards community-building, healing, and peace.