This successful singer and actor has been studying Cultural Management at the Department of Cultural Management and Gender Studies (IKM) since 2019. During the COVID-19 crisis, he employed his newly acquired knowledge in order to independently produce a solo CD as well as an online concert.
How did the early stages of the COVID crisis go for you? And how hard were you hit by cancellations?
Erwin Belakowitsch (EB): I was hit very hard, including financially. But I was lucky enough to have had a contract with a theatre, which disbursed part of my originally agreed-upon pay despite cancelled performances. And late in the previous year, when I realised that COVID would probably come here, as well, I began studying Cultural Management at the IKM. I’m lucky to have done so.
You took advantage of the standstill and planned a CD production during the first lockdown. Had the idea for it already come to you pre-COVID?
EB: That idea had been kicking around in my head for a while. After all, I did want to put what I’d learned in my studies to use. So the CD became my practical project; that was back in January of 2020. When COVID arrived here, I immediately sat down at my desk and started planning things out. And in the summer, with the curve pointing downward, I hit the studio and recorded it. In hindsight, I think spending the pandemic producing something physical like a CD was exactly the right thing to do, since I could send it out.
You crowdfunded the project?
EB: Initially, I had no idea what crowdfunding was really about—I thought it was more or less begging for donations. But then, in the cultural management programme, I learned that it’s about an encounter on an equal footing. So in return for support, I made gingerbread hearts with the CD’s title, Liebling, mein Herz lässt dich grüßen [Darling, My Heart Sends Greetings to You], and I also offered voice lessons. That elicited a sensational response.
The huge success you had with that then inspired you to give a concert online, right?
EB: Yes, that happened during the second lockdown. I wanted to find out how I could use digital technologies for my own purposes. We’re moving within an exciting space here, I think, but I did also see that it’s really not enough to just reproduce a performance. That simply lacks the magic of a live appearance. As with the CD production, I learned a lot here, as well—like just what all is needed in terms of technical know-how, ideas, and personnel in order to realise theatrical projects on the Internet.
Do you think you’ll be benefiting from these newly acquired skills in the future?
EB: Absolutely. People asked me pretty frequently why I’m now studying Cultural Management, and I do actually think that I’m in a bit of a crisis, life- and identity-wise. But I decided to study it in order to learn something. And I wanted to do it as a precaution. The more you know, the better off you’ll be later on. You also do, however, have to preserve what’s fresh and original rather than drifting off into being a manager. It’s a mixture of both the does the trick.
What are your personal takeaways from the COVID crisis?
EB: I think I’ve made good use of it. I’m really glad I had my studies in the Cultural Management programme, and that I had an idea about how I could creatively realise my projects during this period. But now, I’m also grateful to be able to get back up on stage.