Travel in the time of COVID-19

Jacob Parks, 2018 BBM Jazz Scholar


Jacob Parks, BBM Jazz Scholar 2018, cut his scholarship in Denmark short to return to Australia amidst the COVID-19 pandamic. While in self-isolation at home, a measure that currently applies to people arriving in Australia from overseas, he shares his recent experience.


17 March 2020

I’m well, I think. Waiting for any symptoms to arise but at this stage I’m fine in my isolation.

My experience with the Danish Radio Big Band was absolutely amazing, it was incredible working with them, we did such a nice variety of different music with lots of different local and international artists.

I was contracted for five whole weeks. The first impact of the coronavirus happened at the end of my third week, on the 6th of March.

The Danish Prime Minister made an announcement to limit public gathering sizes on the morning of our concert. We were in the sold out DR concert hall with a capacity of around 2000 people, and the decision was made to broadcast to TV only, without the audience like originally planned. This created an unusual ambiance for the performance but it still went very well.

Each day of rehearsing during the next week we were told the size of the concerts would be cut for social distancing. First by half (400-200 people), then updated to a third (150 people). It would still be recorded for radio, but when the coronavirus cases spiked in Denmark on the 11th March and with the WHO announcement of a pandemic, the Danish Prime Minister recommended public workspaces and social gatherings be closed and cancelled for 14 days and DR shut down all its ensembles. As I only had 11 days left of my contract, this meant I didn’t need to be there anymore.

At first I intended to wait for my flight on the 22nd, but I could see each day was getting more and more extreme and after discussing with my family I decided to cut my losses and buy a flight to come home early to avoid any issues, a wise decision it turned out.

Denmark introduced a travel ban in to the country on the 14th, 9 hours before I left, so the airport and my flight out of Copenhagen to Qatar was eerily empty, but my flight from Qatar in to Sydney was quite full of Australians fleeing Europe. The actual travel was not particularly unusual.

I really wish I could have completed the whole trial. I was learning so much and was building up a really nice network of other musicians in Copenhagen.

I hope to go back either with this job, or another time in future and develop this further. I think Denmark has been ahead of the curve on controlling the cases of coronavirus and I hope they can come out the other side successfully.

To the current and future BBM scholars:

I know the musicians and artists living ‘gig to gig’ are going to be heavily affected by the cancellation of work due to the virus, so scholars who can go overseas when it is safe again to do so and use their funding to support local businesses and artists by attending concerts and getting lessons will have an even bigger impact than they had before.


BBM has suspended all scholarship travel until 2021. 2019 scholars who have not yet embarked on their travels will be able to postpone their plans until 2021. New applications for the next scholarship round to travel in 2021 will open on April 6.

Jacob Parks BBM Jazz 2018 Copenhagen

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