Music Lessons: Nawal Alwareeth

Performers have learned to keep the music alive even without the energy of the crowd.
Nawal Alwareeth
Photo by Maria Ratinova

As manager and drummer for the uber-busy local band Island of Black and White, Nawal Alwareeth is a planner and scheduler of the first order. So when COVID destroyed all the finely tuned plans she had put in place for the band for 2020, it was a hard-won lesson in letting go.

We were booked for the entire summer and all the way through October, including a tour and a lot of travel,” says Alwareeth, “At first I thought, This just sucks.’”

But just like the El Dorado County-based band’s sunny-sounding grooves (a fusion of rock, funk, blues, folk and reggae), Alwareeth ultimately took an upbeat stance. “I realized it was really a forced vacationI told my band members to enjoy this time and relax, because I would never give them this much time off,” she says, half-jokingly.

“Time off” hasn’t meant standing still. In addition to creating a video for NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, the band has been regularly livestreaming.

But livestream isn’t live. To fill that void, Alwareeth and husband Chris Haislet, the band’s leader and front man, began offering “doorstep” shows. “We put out word that if anyone had a birthday or anything they were celebrating, we’d come to their home and perform a few songs at a safe distance,” explains Alwareeth. “Seeing the joy it brings to people is unlike anything else.”

Her key lesson from the pandemic? “Make the absolute best of every single moment, because that’s all we have.”

You can find it “all,” says Alwareeth, at