photo by Kate Nuelle
For musicians here in San Antonio, the COVID-19 outbreak has opened up an uncharted territory of uncertainty towards what the local music scene will look like in the future. As venues close their doors and tours cancel, local musicians have found ways to get their creativity flowing towards new music in addition to initiatives that allow them to give back to local marginalized communities.
For D’Vonna Miller — also known as ultraviolet boy —the pandemic has created an entirely new circumstance by which their work has grown from. Performing live since they were twelve, Miller has had the opportunity to immerse themselves in music for several years. As they explored the San Antonio local music scene, they noted that it seemed very individualistic.
“There was a lot of accountability that wasn’t taking place. Venues were taking advantage of artists, and I wasn’t seeing any support for anyone who didn’t have money, those who were creative and those who truly wanted a community,” Miller said.
In contrast, Miller reflected upon the importance of uplifting marginalized voices during the era of COVID-19.
“Currently, my inspiration is the idea that community is so important; I feel like humans were created to be in community with each other,” Miller said.
This struck them at the beginning of the pandemic, during which Miller found themselves homeless. It wasn’t until they had asked for support from their Twitter followers that they were able to secure stable housing. Community, they emphasized, pushes Miller to continue towards uplifting Black trans musicians.
“I reached out to my community, and they reached back,” Miller said. “Funding people’s housing and food situations is so important now.
Currently, they work with 222 DIY, a promotional company they started with a focus on providing local musicians with a safe space.
Natássia Casas — singer in local group Mírame —has performed locally for about two years. Coming from a family that prized music, she began singing through her school’s theater and choir programs. It wasn’t until college that she met her Mírame bandmates.
“We instantly clicked. I’ve grown with the band to see that it was never a thought of mine to be in a band or be a performer until I was in one,” Casas said.
Since starting, they’ve created and performed music with love. Before the pandemic, they were performing live shows nearly every weekend.
“Every show I performed in, I felt a sense of community, family and friendship,” Casas said. “We are a Black and Brown band, and we want to let ourselves have the chance to speak up.”
When COVID-19 hit, it was back to the drawing board. Live shows were canceled as was their expected performance at South by Southwest. Casas, currently quarantining in California, has had little time to focus on music.
“Since we’re not all together, we’re not actively working on new stuff. A lot of us are working and going to school, you know,” Casas said.
However, Casas has taken time to practice songwriting and to come up with ideas to help members of the San Antonio community that currently need support.
“We’re trying to use our platform to give out resources for Black Lives Matter and other mutual aid groups,” Casas said.
While not creating new music, Casas expects to visit San Antonio soon and create visuals with her bandmates.
In a recent Vox article, local DIY artist Matthew San Martin recounts graduating from college into the “bleakest economy in decades.” After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, San Martin felt stuck after having to shift his entire course of action.
“I was really depressed. You go from having two jobs and being on top of things and reset back,” San Martin said.
San Martin has been performing in San Antonio since 2015. Through his music, San Martin champions his Chicano identity to uplift Latinx and Chicanx peoples.
“It’s always been a driving force in everything I do, and I hope to take that with me as far and beyond into content that will benefit Chicanx and Latinx people in San Antonio and Central Texas who can find comfort in their identity through the stuff that I make,” San Martin said.
Currently, San Martin continues to use his platform towards projects that benefit the San Antonio community. Nearly two years ago, San Martin came up with the idea for SA Covers For A Cause, a compilation album of eighteen young San Antonio musicians covering other San Antonio musicians — a project that Miller and Casas both participated in. All proceeds from the album were donated to the San Antonio Food Bank. This, in addition to his work with Other You Media, has characterized his work towards a new generation of local music. San Martin is also on track to pursue a master’s degree in journalism innovation at Syracuse University.
The ongoing work of these three artists alongside other local musicians goes to show how important community-building is during a time where it may seem lost.