Musician Spotlight

What are NYC’s Street Performers Doing During COVID-19?

Street performing, also called busking, has been around for centuries. It can be traced back to medieval Europe when entertainers often played in public squares for tips. In modern day, street performing is common across the world. 

In NYC, buskers play a critical part in the city’s culture. You can find them all across the city, including subway stations. However, due to COVID-19, the streets are empty and the performers have no audiences. So, I wondered, what are they doing now? 

The answer is, they are still performing!

Here are a few NYC street performers – or buskers – and what they are doing now.

Yut Chia

Yut Chia is an EDM DJ and violinist, who made his mark as a busker in NYC’s subway stations. 

Born in Colombia of Chinese and Colombian descent, Chia came to New York with his family when he was three years old, according to the Daily News

He took to street performing as a teenager to raise money to support his single mother and his college dreams. By 2012, when he was 19 years old, he had gained the support of not just famous musicians in New York, but even one as far as in Brazil, according to the Daily News

His story had resonated and captured their attention. 

In 2013, he formed his band Yut and the Hot Four. 

And in 2014, he represented Queens College at CUNY’s Got Talent competition and won. 

Chia ultimately decided to leave school to pursue his dreams. 

“I just had to grasp all the enormous opportunities I was getting,” he said in an interview with the TimesLedger Newspapers. “It was either continue studying to become a well-rounded classical player, or move on and follow my dream and passion of becoming a modern violinist. The stuff I do is new and they simply don’t teach it in college. I play modern music, I dance while I play, I have backup dancers and choreograph my whole shows.”

Chia’s stage ultimately expanded beyond NYC’s subway stations to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. 

But he continues to play his violin in the subways. 

And since the coronavirus pandemic hit NYC, Chia has been playing music with dystopian backgrounds showcasing the empty streets of NYC and unusually quiet Grand Central Terminal. 

Here he is performing his remix of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on one of the most iconic street corners in NYC — nicknamed the “Bloody Angle.” 

For more of Chia’s amazing music, check out his YouTube channel.

Neesa Dove

Nessa Dove came from Canada to NYC as an aspiring musician. 

Born in Canada of East African heritage, Dove plays the guitar, sings, and writes her own music.

For a time, she balanced a part-time babysitting job with performing on the side. However, inspired by other talented street performers, she quit her babysitting job to perform full-time and ended up becoming a huge success – making even more than she had previously, she said during a PBS busking documentary.

Lately, Dove has been using her success to spread positivity around the world. 

She is spearheading the Stay Strong Movement, which donates to organizations that support COVID-19 recovery, justice for people of color, and more! 

Dove’s music is available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and more. You can support Dove by purchasing her music here.

You can donate to the Stay Strong Movement here.

Dee Who

Dee Who is another NYC musician. He can normally be found throughout the MTA system playing his bass guitar and singing a wide variety of songs.

Now, Dee Who is spending his time on online platforms like YouTube and Twitch. 

He is producing Chalkboard Theater Presents, featuring live music, arts and crafts, skits, and more! You can catch some of Dee Who’s livestreams on Twitch and check out monthly highlights on his YouTube channel.

Here’s a video of a Chalkboard Theater Presents live set.

You can support DeeWho directly by donating to his Patreon account. Becoming a CBTP patron also comes with special benefits, such as exclusive live concerts, T-shirts, and more!

Glenn Roth

Glenn Roth is a Connecticut-based fingerstyle guitarist. Over the years, he has gained quite a following and toured around the country. When he isn’t busy on tour, he can be found performing on the platforms of the NYC subway system as part of the MTA’s “Music under New York” program. 

Like many others, Roth has moved online recently, primarily to YouTube. He’s been busy posting new songs and covers every few days! 

If you enjoy Roth’s music and would like to support him, you can purchase his music here. Alternatively, if you’d like the tablature for any of his pieces, you can get it here.

For more livestreams, check here. And here are some of the most effective ways to support your favorite musicians.