San Diego musicians reflect on pandemic in new video project

San Diego harpist and educator Tasha Smith Godinez
Tasha Smith Godinez is one of the San Diego musicians featured in the DIY Ethos, a video project produced by Jonathan Bewley of Snapshots Music and Arts Foundation.
(Jonathan Bewley)

Snapshots Music and Arts Foundation releases ‘DIY Ethos,’ a short film that profiles local artists and their response to COVID-19 shutdown


With many in-person gatherings, events and shows indefinitely put on ice, it’s no secret the entertainment business has been forced to adjust to a new reality in the COVID-19 era.

Widespread cancellations of big-name music festivals and sold-out arena tours have had their fair share of headlines — but what about the local, lesser-known artists?

Local filmmaker Jonathan Bewley decided these stories should also be documented.

Record producer Creed Taylor and Snapshots Music and Arts Foundation founder Jonathan Bewley
Jonathan Bewley (right) with record producer Creed Taylor
(Courtesy photo)

The San Diego native and founder of Snapshots Music and Arts Foundation has been cataloging the local creative scene for 15 years. In his work, Bewley interviews artists and produces videos to archive the rich and diverse talent in San Diego, often focusing on smaller acts that tend to get lost in the shuffle.

When the pandemic struck in mid-March, all of Bewley’s ongoing ventures, including a film that was in production, were put on hold due to travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders. By April, Bewley was going stir-crazy.

The shutdown not only stopped Bewley’s projects, but his creative spirit also took a hit. “I realized I was losing my inspiration (and) the connection to the work that I do,” he said.

To keep his passion alive, Bewley decided to turn the unfortunate situation into an opportunity. So he reached out to four musicians — Tasha Smith Godinez (harpist, educator), Justin Pearson (vocalist, bassist), Pall Jenkins (singer, guitarist) and Heather Marie (singer, guitarist) — and asked to interview them about how they were adjusting to the current circumstances.

San Diego singer and guitarist Heather Marie
Heather Marie, singer and guitarist, on songwriting while stuck at home: “I’m writing way more than I ever have before — so much so that I can’t remember the chords off the top of my head of the song I just did like three days ago, because I’ve got another one I’m working on.”
(Jonathan Bewley)

“Around mid-May I created the idea for this (project) — and I would say partly out of necessity, because I really realized that for the first time I actually was forgetting what it is that I did exactly,” he said, laughing.

Due to safety requirements, Bewley had to be creative while pursuing the project in quarantine. Instead of his usual three-person crew, Bewley took on the assignment solo, handling the interview, audio and video components on his own.

Each musician picked a spot they felt most comfortable meeting, and Bewley showed up in a mask and sat six feet away while the artists shared their stories. Bewley said these socially-distanced, one-on-one conversations fostered an intimate environment between him and his guests, leading to honest reflections and insights.

San Diego vocalist and bassist Justin Pearson
Justin Pearson, vocalist and bassist, on finding inspiration during dark times: “I remember sitting down last night and started to work on lyrics and I’m like ‘Geez, this is easy — there’s so much negative stuff to write about.’”
(Jonathan Bewley)

The result is DIY Ethos, a 27-minute interview-driven video on the foundation’s website which offers a glimpse into a musician’s POV on the COVID-19 shutdown.

Though each subject had a different approach to dealing with — or embracing — the changes in the music scene, many of their stories centered on a similar theme: a do-it-yourself mentality, which was inspiration for the project’s name.

These interviews don’t attempt to sugarcoat any of the issues the pandemic has caused, but instead of honing in on the lack of gigs and lost paychecks, Bewley wanted to focus on something else: “Could the challenges of these times break the spirits of these creative people?”

From taking advantage of free time to write songs in the middle of the night, to utilizing technology for virtual concerts to reach new audiences, all four subjects found their own way to adjust to the new reality and keep their love of music alive.

San Diego singer and guitarist Pall Jenkins
Pall Jenkins, singer and guitarist, on not missing live shows: “(In my career) I much preferred making the music, hiding out in my house making music. That’s why I got into it, was the creative side ... there’s a certain excitement and nervousness to (performing live) but it was never the driving force for me.”
(Jonathan Bewley)

Though DIY Ethos focuses on the perspective of musicians, Bewley said that the project was not made for any specific group of people, and that the insights from the musicians can be applied to anyone’s life. He hopes the audience realizes the importance of holding on to one’s passions during this unprecedented time, or when faced with any hardship.

“We can’t lose contact with the things we love to do, no matter what the circumstances are ... this piece was an effort to come back and reconnect with the things that make life seem rewarding because you’re engaging with your skills,” Bewley said.

San Diego harpist and educator Tasha Smith Godinez
Tasha Smith Godinez, harpist and educator, on performing virtual concerts: “While the audience isn’t right in front of me, there is an audience, and it’s amazing. And actually, there’s a different audience than what I would have had in front of me (outside of quarantine).”
(Jonathan Bewley)

No matter the circumstance, it all comes down to a simple question for Bewley: “If we lose inspiration, what good are we?”

Watch the full video on Snapshots Music and Arts Foundation’s website at Additional videos, featuring longer cuts of each musician’s interview, are also available to view online.