Editor’s note: The following column was written by Buckhannon native and musical/special interests columnist Tyler Hall.
BUCKHANNON — The 2020 pandemic has taken its toll on everyone. From the initial panic to the more level-headed understanding we have gained today, one thing remains certain: normal life changed.
As the virus spread and became an increasing threat actions were taken that inevitably affected musicians and the musical community drastically. Across the country and in north-central West Virginia, no longer were musicians allowed to entertain and provide for themselves through in-person public performances.
However, a few local musicians recognized opportunities provided through technology and seized upon a rare moment to learn new skills.
Today I’d like to focus on a duo known as Key to Adam who came out on the other side of 2020 with an optimistic outlook on the future of their music.
A banker from New Jersey and a local self-taught, award-winning fiddle player, formed the foundation for the instrumental duo Key to Adam in a small coffee shop five years ago. At that time Adam Moyer, having recently recovered from a major surgery, was playing small gigs and open mic nights, showcasing his own unique finger-style guitar playing.
Kiara Williams was an already established local musician, who proved reluctant to attend the open mics, despite repeated attempts from friends to have her join. Lucky for Buckhannon, Kiara finally relented and she showed up to an open mic at Dough Re Mi, where Adam just happened to be playing.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Adam described the moment the two began to play together on that day as “magical.”
“The whole room went silent,” Kiara added.
The moment felt like the epiphany moment of a movie, when the puzzle all comes together, they both said.
Queue “Eye of the Tiger,” and a montage of eight months of relentless practice and in the end, the duo Key to Adam emerged.
“Sometimes we practiced until 3 or 4 a.m.,” Adam revealed of those early days. “I can easily sit and play on the same tune for hours with little variations.”
This intense focus helped the duo hammer out the fine details in their work.
Since their debut, Key to Adam has continued to find steady work through their music, even being able to make it a full-time profession with business licensing. They have previously been regulars at the 88 Restaurant & Lounge, Las Trancas Mexican restaurant, Smoke on the Water and more.
The duo was on track to have a peak year in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic hit West Virginia in March 2020, taking away more than 50% of their expected business for the year.
“I remember a day when I had 10 cancellations all at once,” Kiara added.
And with a live music ban mandated by Governor Jim Justice, Key to Adam felt lost.
“We weren’t sure what to do,” Adam admitted. “We saw people being ostracized for continuing to work.”
As the pandemic progressed, Adam and Kiara happened across “Socially Distance Fest,” a Facebook group that allowed musicians to go live and perform for viewers online. This sparked an idea for the two to develop and air their own live-streamed performances.
Both set to work, having to learn new skills to deliver the performance both envisioned. One of the biggest issues Key to Adam faced was sound design. Not many people know how much work goes into the creation of a pleasant-sounding stream. Mics are adjusted both in angles and distance from the instruments they seek to capture. A process known as equalization in which frequency ranges and levels are adjusted to cure sounds of imperfections, is rigorously applied, and reapplied until the overall sound is acceptable.
Compression, or the process of reducing a signal’s dynamic range, factored heavily into whether the performance would sound natural. And while these are a few major issues the group faced, they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to live-streaming musical performances. Streaming also puts an added importance on visual aspects of the performance. A clear camera and a high-fidelity streaming medium are critical to a good musical performance. Backdrops and decorations also factor into viewership since they have the ability to draw viewers in.
Ever flexible, Key to Adam quickly recognized the need to elevate the quality of their live-streams and began allocating funds to make their vision come to life.
However, even when sound design and set design seemed to be in order, the duo still faced technical difficulties. Some platforms proved unable to handle live-streaming music, while others allowed phone calls to interrupt and completely shut down a stream proved frustrating for the two.
When asked how they overcame such complications, both Kiara and Adam agreed that the people who supported them provided the best feedback. In fact, the duo believes the larger audience that the Internet provided helped gain many new fans. To be able to interact with the audience, Key to Adam purchased a projector, which was designed to display the live chat comments, and before long a community blossomed.
Both Kiara and Adam reflected on the journey to live-streaming with fondness and genuine appreciation. The entertainment and connections they made with audience members across the globe formed a loving community. Today, while a modicum of normalcy has returned, Key to Adam recognizes live-streams will have to take a backseat to the events regularly scheduled. However, they plan to continue providing the online service.